Frankfort schools look into sufficient school safety protocols
BENZIE COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- A Benzie County school board meeting Monday night centered in on school safety as parents expressed their recent concerns.
The Frankfort-Elberta Area School Board heard from parents at their regularly scheduled meeting held at the Frankfort Elementary School cafeteria.
It comes after an investigation led to a Frankfort High School teen being taken into custody.
Superintendent, Jeff Tousley opened the school board meeting Monday night apologizing for not effectively notifying parents about the school threat.
School officials sent out a series of e-mails after the investigation into the student began, however, parents say the e-mails were delayed and caused more confusion than answers.
“We realize that this has added to community concerns, parents concerns and we sincerely apologize for that,” Tousley said.
The investigation into a Frankfort High School student began after deputies were contacted by school staff, parents and other students.
Law enforcement said they were told the teen threated the school.
“I will tell you through our investigation we looked into it some more and it became a situation that we felt we needed to take action to protect our kids and we did,” said Benzie County Sheriff, Ted Schendel Monday night.
Several parents spoke telling board members they’re thankful school safety was a main topic on the agenda, however, they wish there was a better way to address the issue starting at looking at the root of the cause.
“My entire family urges you to not only look at the bolts and the locks and the hardware but we urge you to look at the processes to be 100% about the student that needs it the most,” said one parent.
Since the investigation began, school officials have been working with law enforcement to find better ways to communicate to the public of any issues.
“We want to make sure we are doing the right thing for our kids,” Tousley said.
The superintendent says they have plans in place for security equipment moving forward.
Some parents at Monday’s meeting suggested having a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO) to be the eyes and the ears for the schools.
“Being able to lock the doors and keep doors shut that’s keeping things out and that doesn’t help looking at things inside and I think that really needs to be discussed and looked into,” another parent said.
School officials say they plan to implement the OK2SAY program to give students an outlet to report anything they may have concerns about.
They also plan to develop a parent advisory committee to help communication in the district.
Superintendent Tousley said they also want to implement a buzzer system allowing only one main entrance to each building along with limited access to other doors.
Tousled said officials have recently met with law enforcement and other school officials in the area looking to develop a county-wide school safety protocol. It will act as a way to get any necessary information out to parents and the public as soon as possible in case of an emergency.
School officials mentioned working with Centra Wellness Network, a non-profit governmental agency that provides services to support individuals living with mental illness or developmental disabilities. They say they hope this will help students that may need help outside of the school environment.
The teen under investigation remains in a juvenile detention center. The case is in the hands of the prosecutor.
“I am all for transparency I think it’s imperative that not only parents know but that the teachers and students know what’s going on and I believe that’s their right and again it’s for the protection of everyone at this school," Sheriff Schendel said.
Details of the threat are limited, as the investigation is still ongoing.