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Kids or criminals

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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For example, in the 2015-2016 school year, while there were eight suicide attempts in Rochester schools, there were no actual suicides – at least on school grounds or at school activities. Comparatively, Bloomfield Hills had no attempts last year, while Birmingham had two suicide attempts on school grounds. Johnson said he believes having officers in the schools with students from an early age, where they can become comfortable with the officers and their uniform, "helps alleviate anxiety and those issues related to suicide." In addition, he noted, "They all work closely with the school counselors. When we see something, they talk about it with the counselors, and when they (school counselors) see something, such as a potential crime, they alert us.

"Our three high schools are like little cities," he noted, with all the attendant highs, lows and dramas.

Birmingham's Wilkinson agrees, noting that the school district reaches out to law enforcement when threats are an actual misdemeanor or felony on school property, or if there is a threat – or perceived threat – against another student or staff member. "Even if a student is joking around, we don't have the luxury of taking the chance. We have to investigate. We are very reliant upon our local police, and take direction from them," she said, noting that at times there are clear cut reasons to contact police, such as students doing misdemeanor vandalism on school property, "or if there were a suspected felony."

Less clear are issues related to social media, even if it doesn't occur on school grounds. "If someone is threatening students or staff, it becomes a school issue, we contact law enforcement," she said. "If a student made a threat against another student on Facebook, like wanting to get back at another student, or a threat against a staff member, or a threat against the building, like a bomb threat, the police department and district would get involved."

Grein concurs. "Any perceived criminal activity is reported to local law enforcement officials, who then work with the district administrators to determine the best course of action," she said.

"It's always a building administration decision," in Bloomfield Hills, Good said. "They will call (law enforcement) when they can't handle it – like an irate parent, a family circumstance, someone who's not supposed to be picking up a child, drugs, a fight – but they're good, because the teachers know how to step in. Our learning communities allow the staff to see when things are brewing. Our focus is on prevention and restoration, and then the emphasis is less on pure punishment, and more on consequences. It's giving the students the tools to resolve conflicts."

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