Oxford Shooting Prompts School Safety Concerns, Impact on Mental Health 

 Dr. Michele Leno, licensed psychologist, left, and Ralph Godbee, former City and Public-School Police Chief in Detroit. 


The Oxford school shooting remains painful for many people weeks after a teenage suspect was alleged to have killed four students and wounding several others including a teacher. Its impact is felt universally amongst students, teachers and parents.

Many school districts have been on high alert and forced to cancel classes due to a wave of threats made in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Oxford, Mich. Most of the threats have been determined not to be credible but rather copy-cat threats by some students as a prank or excuse to close school and get away with not attending classes.

The threats, real or fake, have been no joke for area law enforcement who are cracking down on the misguided and criminal acts by teens seeking some type of thrill.

“There is nothing amusing about threatening to harm others,” said Detroit Police Chief James E. White. “If you engage in that behavior, the consequences are severe.”

Most of the threats originate online via social media and while many of the threats haven’t proven credible, each situation requires an intense investigation and takes up a considerable number of resources for the Detroit Police Department in committing to each complaint.

During a recent press conference, Chief White urged parents to have a conversation with their children and warned about the stain serious criminal charges could have on a young person’s future. He also pressed that his department is equipped with the tools to track and make arrests on threats made online.

“We have our crime analysis specialists who are extremely experienced with investigating these charges and complaints. Our cybercrime unit is extremely talented and well-equipped to investigate these complaints and able to look at your digital footprint when you use social media to make these kinds of threats.”

A week following the Oxford school shooting, Wayne County charged at least 23 individuals for making false school-related threats.

“We don’t want to be that municipality that doesn’t take every threat seriously …we work together [with law enforcement] to make sure we don’t have a credible threat and when we do, we act accordingly,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

The shooting and copy-cat threats have prompted discussions from gun control to school safety and measures that should be taken across the board to prevent another tragedy of this magnitude.

“When you have a country that has more guns than it has people there has to be a prioritization and protection of our children,” said Ralph Godbee, former City and Public-School Police Chief in Detroit. “In particular vulnerable places that are considered soft targets and rural schools happen to fit that construct.”

Godbee adds that preventive measures in addressing shootings on school grounds may be an examination of construction safety measures based on geographical differences in school policy. “It’s ironic that urban schools that are believed to be at a level of danger have so many preventive measure such as metal detectors in place.” He recounts his time as Chief of Police for Detroit Public Schools Community District where he states there were no school shootings of any kind during his two-year tenure. He credits the school district’s rigorous screening process of students and guests before entering buildings. “Rural counties are going to have to really consider a different approach toward security, because it ‘doesn’t happen in my neighborhood’ construct, we’ve seen a lot of devastation in communities that don’t have the preventive measures that we do in [urban] schools.”

The Oxford shooting not only has led to universal conversation on school safety but the impact on one’s mental health and the struggle parents, students and teachers are dealing with everywhere over psychological fall out and the triggers of returning to class and not feeling safe no matter the security measures in place or not, as well as the emotional toll of grief.

“This is a true traumatizing experience,” said Dr. Michele Leno, licensed psychologist. “The on-going concern is fear and it’s going to take patience. If your child doesn’t want to go back and sit in the classroom, right now is not the time to be forceful. This is a time to be patient and work together as family and community.”





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