BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR & CHRIS FAULKNOR, PUBLISHER
Parents concerned with the bomb scares in September of 2017 and on Jan. 24 of this year—both at Boyne City Public Schools—shared those worries at last week’s school board meeting.
During the public comment portion of the Boyne City Public Schools Board of Education Monday Feb. 12 meeting, several people spoke out.
“I’m here tonight to get some answers on what happened with the bomb threat,” said Deb Jason, who has a grandchild attending Boyne City Elementary School. Jason is pictured addressing the board in the featured photo.
Jason said an email was sent after each of the two bomb threats stating there would be follow-up information but that none was shared.
Jason said the child was dropped off late for school—while the lockdown was occurring—and instead of being told about the incident and turned away, he was invited to enter the school.
“My daughter walked him into the school that was on lockdown and the front door was wide open,” said Jason. “And, I guess I would like some answers on why, number one, she was able to get into the school while they were on lockdown; and, number two, why he was invited to stay when less than 45 minutes later we were all called to come get our children.”
She added, “I don’t feel like there’s been enough communication with the police department.”
Jason said she kept the boy out of school for a couple days following the incident because she was worried about his safety.
Another parent, Steve Roote, said he would like to see a better emergency plan put in place. He also offered to put forward reward money.
Debbie Riehl said there needs to be more training for these types of threats, and the kids need to know what’s going on.
She added, “There needs to be more communication.”
During the meeting, Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent told the concerned parents he would get back to them later in the week.
“As a follow up to the parents who spoke at the board meeting, I called each of them on Tuesday after the meeting,” Little told the Boyne City Gazette on Feb. 16. “With each one, we discussed in greater detail their concerns and it gave me the opportunity to clarify a few things with them. Since none of the parents had talked to me prior to speaking at the board meeting, this was an important step to take.”
Little said the investigation is ongoing and that the Boyne City Police Department continues to act on tips or information when they come in.
“As a district, our leadership team has received feedback from parents, students, staff, and the community on our strengths and needed growth areas for responding to such an event,” Little said. “On balance, BCPS responded very well to the situation, but there is always some details to review and adjust in case something similar happens in the future.”
Little said the district will be going out for bid on some new safety-related items such as enhanced security cameras and door security.
This work was scheduled to be done this summer through moneys from the 2016 bond.
“But the threats have sharpened our understanding of the need for these items and the role this equipment might play in a future security situation,” Little said.
For now, the schools and police continue to discuss and refine plans for these types of situations.
“The key is to prepare for situations but to know that each event is different, with different twists and factors to consider,” said Little. “Therefore, BCPS stands ready to follow the chain of command, to be clear and calm with students, and for staff to make decisions within their roles that are consistent with the overall direction of their building or—in the case of the January threat—the district.”
He added, “A key piece of the success for the response to the last threat was the ability of the Boyne community to mobilize and react to the evacuation. Credit goes to the countless parents and community members who helped receive children.”
Little said that, during a conversation with parent Steve Roote, he told Little he was not complaining about the response, rather that he was concerned and wanted Little to know he was willing to put up some reward money for information leading the arrest of the person who made the threat.
“This topic has been brought to BCPD but no decision has been made to do it or not,” Little said.