Dear Families, Employees and Community Leaders,
We hope this letter finds you well. We wanted to take a moment to discuss an important topic that has become a concern for many schools across the country as well as locally. In light of recent events, hoaxes and SWATting incidents in K-12 districts, it is imperative that we prepare ourselves for any potential emergencies that may occur in our school district. We have learned a great deal from our colleagues at Ottawa Hills, Findlay, Scott, Start and Liberty-Benton, which have all been victims of hoaxes or SWATting. SWATting is a form of harassment in which a person or people call 911 and falsely report an active shooting situation or shots fired inside a school. This lie results in first responders from across the area rushing to that location, frequently with a heavily-armed police presence often including a SWAT team. Sadly, we began to draft this letter before the tragic events at Michigan State University unfolded, reinforcing the gravity and significance of the planning we must undertake while hoping this work is never ever used. From East Lansing to our K-12 colleagues in Northwest Ohio that have experienced events, the anxiety that this creates, even when it is a hoax, for everyone involved – from students and staff members to first responders – is intense and creates a potentially dangerous situation as law enforcement members rush to the scene. We are charged to plan for a process to protect, secure and account for employees and students in any type of crisis event.
In the event of an emergency, the school district will cooperate fully with local law enforcement. If necessary, the school building will be locked down and/or students will be evacuated to a safe location. The police will take all necessary measures to limit access to the building and secure the area, including closing surrounding roads. In the midst of an event, families are not permitted to reach the school building to allow first responders to take the lead.
In order to ensure the safety of our students and employees, a process for reunification when an event is over would be implemented. To make this process successful, we need families to cooperate with law enforcement and schools. This process will be orderly, and students will only be released to custodial parents or guardians who can provide proper identification. While neighbors and extended family members may play an important role in a time of crisis, these situations require schools to release students only to those family members identified in our records as having custody. School officials would conduct attendance and prepare students to be reunited with their guardians in such an event. The location and process to do this would be shared by police or school district leaders at that time.
School administrators and law enforcement work together to plan and implement this process for each school. During such an event, other school district buildings may also be placed on lockdown, and students may not be released until given the all clear by police and school district leaders. If an event is occurring in another building, we recognize that families’ first instinct may be to drive to that other building and pull their child out of school. What schools and law enforcement have learned from other situations is that this action may have unintended consequences for first responders and school employees. If all available police were responding to one location, law enforcement have expressed concern about the other locations, ranging from a secondary event to traffic issues being created that may limit first responders in getting to and from the other location. In other situations, having dozens or hundreds of families arriving at the same time to remove their students creates an unmanageable situation in the school and the surrounding area. Students in other buildings during these times are safe and have caring adults there who are helping them. As soon as the crisis is resolved, schools will communicate with families immediately when the lockdown is being lifted and the plans for reunification.
In some K-12 SWATting incidents, individuals who are not law enforcement have arrived on the scene with their own weapons, trying to help. Please do not do this. This has caused near tragic reactions from law enforcement. Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies who are responding to a report of an armed shooter in a school who then see an unidentified person approaching the school with a weapon may react to that person in a forceful way. We can appreciate the desire to help and protect. Law enforcement has indicated the best way to accomplish this is to let these authorized and highly-trained professionals do what they have been trained to do.
We understand that reunification measures may cause inconvenience and concern for families, but the safety of our students and employees is of the utmost importance. We ask for your understanding and cooperation should such an event occur, and we will do everything in our power to ensure a smooth and safe process, including providing the location of the reunification location and details about traffic flow so all families may be reunified with their children as quickly and safely as possible.
We do not share specific information about reunification sites or traffic flow ahead of time because all situations are different. We are also not permitted to share details of our safety plan, which is confidential. The school district has many prearranged potential evacuation sites throughout the area, but which one may be used in a given situation depends on many factors. The best way for families to help the reunification process is to wait for instructions and then follow them carefully.
We appreciate the hard work of our employees on our ongoing emergency planning, which is quite detailed and difficult work. We hope to never need these plans, but safety and security continue to be top priorities. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Thomas L. Hosler
Director of Public Safety
Chief of Police
City of Perrysburg