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Oxford schools report shows some lapses, some excesses in threat assessment

A bouquet of roses sits on a sign outside of Oxford High School on the day after the school shooting in Oxford, Mich. Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at the school, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)
Jake May/AP
The Flint Journal
A makeshift memorial sits outside of Oxford High School, a day after four students were fatally shot and seven injured in Oxford, Mich.

The first installment of a report into threat assessment in the Oxford Community Schools District following a mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021 shows some lapses in adherence to the district's policies, even as the district implements "robust" systems for evaluating and reporting potential threats.

The review — part one of two expected reports by Guidepost Solutions — found the district’s “current threat and suicide assessment practices satisfy the principles for a threat assessment process.”

The district has created teams of administrators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement to assess threats and suicide risks and established a “centralized reporting system” for communicating concerns, the report found.

But the report noted concerns with the district’s ability to sustain its approach. In particular, the reviewers found, Oxford Community Schools are “conducting 300% more threat assessments than comparably-sized districts.”

“The district is conducting a full threat assessment process for any ‘concerning conduct,’ regardless of whether that conduct even arguably presents a threat,” the report said.

Some school counselors told investigators that means they have no time to provide guidance and academic support to students. And the demands of conducting threat assessments for “conduct that transparently is not a threat” means teams might be overlooking conduct that deserves more scrutiny, the report said.

The review also found intervention teams were not consistently asking students about access to firearms.

The district’s teams asked about access to firearms in only two out of 44 suicide assessments provided to investigators for review, the report said.

And in 48 threat assessments across Winter and Fall 2022 semesters, intervention teams asked about firearm access in only half of them.

“The District’s policy appropriately requires assessment teams to inquire about a student’s access to ‘dangerous instrumentalities’ and firearms in threat and suicide assessments, and District staff must be trained to do so consistently,” the report said.

Guidepost said it released the report to the public and the Oxford Community Schools Board of Education and administrators simultaneously.

In a statement, district Superintendent Vickie Markavitch said the district “will begin reviewing the 179-page report and their suggestions.”

“Once we have reviewed the report and have determined what should be adjusted in our recovery plan, we will share that updated plan with our school community,” Markavitch said.

A series of public meetings about the report’s findings will be held Thursday in Oxford.

Guidepost said the second part of the report, examining the events leading up to, during, and immediately after the shooting, is still in progress.

Brett joined Michigan Public in December 2021 as an editor.
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