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Dr. Les Potter has over 53 years in education in the US and Egypt with 45 years in school and university administration. Currently Les is retired from full time employment but is a consultant at Core...
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Oxford Michigan School Shooting

Once again there was a school shooting in the US and this time in Michigan. As a former secondary school administrator, I try to reflect on what I would have done if I was in that situation.  Every state and school district has their own rules and policies on suspensions, searching back bags, etc. Unfortunately, blame is being placed on school officials and what they did not do to prevent this tragedy. Did they school officials do the right thing by interviewing the student and meeting with his parents? I would say yes. Should they have searched the young man’s backpack? I do not know the state and school laws and policies concerning search of private property. I am familiar with the states where I worked and you had to have probable cause to search or get student or parents permission prior to a search of private property. Searching a school locker is permissible without student or parent permission as the locker is school property. Did school officials have reasonable cause to search the back pack? I do not know that answer. 

Unfortunately, once again schools will get blamed for what they didn’t do and the Monday morning quarterbacks will tell you how you should have handled it. The obvious answer is to keep guns out of kids hands.
As a former principal who had my car windshield shot out as I was leaving our school parking lot and have taken firearms from students I would err on the side of caution. I was principal of seven secondary schools for twenty years.  I had many students do similar things with emails, notes and verbally making threats. Which ones do you take seriously? All of them! Do your due diligence in your investigation. This will become your top priority today. Keep your parents, SRO, superintendent and possibly child protective services in the loop.
If school officials and the parents felt like the alleged shooter was better off at school where he could be observed then home alone then they might have made the right decision if they were concerned about the young man’s safety. But have the student observed throughout the school day. How many days do keep this up for, I do not know. 
Can a school official mandate that parents take their child to mental health professionals? I made that suggestion one time and learned that I could only make the request as a suggestion (I could not require the parents to take their child to any outside agency) and then the parents wanted to know if the school was going to pay for this. 
Should the the school administration suspended the young man? Did they have the justification to do so? Out of school suspension is to be taken seriously and was there enough reasons to do so? Would suspending a person for a few days really have stopped an individual who intends to harm students when he returns. I think it would have been difficult to do as the student and parents explained all of his actions away. He also apparently was never in trouble before which makes it harder to justify out of school suspension. Perhaps in school suspension where the student could have better observed would have been a better option and meeting with his counselor while in ISS. Question is then asked, how long does he stay isolated?
Does the school district have written procedures on what to do in these type of situations. If your school district does not then I would suggest that they do. Certainly I believe that school officials do not want to be the last one knowing bad news. Contact your school SRO and the superintendent. Let them know of the situation and get their advice. 
As a school administrator, I would know my state and district policies about these issues.  Always notify your bosses. Get the parents involved. Be proactive when you can. Take all instances of threats seriously. 
This incident and how it should be handled should be discussed in depth by the school board and superintendent as well at your next principals meeting. Remember this could happen at your school. 
Dr. Les Potter, Education World Contributing Writer
Les has over 45 years in school administration and educational leadership in the US and Egypt including: Dean of a college of education; principal of 7 schools in 4 states; assistant superintendent; and author of 100 publications.