Dozens of suburban Detroit schools close amid threats after high school shooting

Dozens of schools across suburban Detroit cancelled classes Thursday, two days after four students were killed in a shooting at Oxford High School. The alleged shooter, who is 15, remains held without bail, charged with murder and terrorism. The prosecutor is considering charging his parents, saying their actions went "far beyond negligence," making guns "freely available." John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Dozens of schools across suburban Detroit canceled classes today, two days after a shooting at a nearby high school left four teenagers dead.

    John Yang has more.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, while many of the school districts said they were closing out of an abundance of caution, some cited safety concerns and threatening social media messages.

    Oxford High School itself is shut for the rest of the week as students and teachers mourn the dead, Madisyn Baldwin and Justin Shilling, both 17, 16-year-old Tate Myre, and Hana St. Juliana, who was 14. A faculty member and six students were wounded, including a 17-year-old girl who's in critical condition.

    Students without physical injuries are victims too, said Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald.

  • Karen McDonald, Oakland County, Michigan, Prosecutor:

    What about all the children who ran screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who can't eat and can't sleep and can't imagine a world where they could ever step back — foot back in that school?

  • John Yang:

    The alleged shooter, who is 15, remains held without bail, charged as an adult with murder and terrorism.

    In a radio interview today, the prosecutor said she's considering charging his parents, saying their actions went far beyond negligence and that the gun used seems to have been freely available to their son.

    Michael Rice is Michigan superintendent of public instruction.

    Mr. Rice, thanks so much for joining us.

    What more can you tell us about these threats that led to these school closures today?

    Michael F. Rice, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction: You often have copycat threats when you have an incident like this.

    We have had these sorts of things before, not simply in our state, but in other states across the country, copycat bomb threats, for example. And they end up for a brief period of time adversely affecting a number of districts in a county or in a region of a state.

  • John Yang:

    Are schools going to — some of these districts going to reopen tomorrow? Or what have you heard?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    Well, some of the districts — I did meet with all the Oakland county superintendents earlier today, and a few of them were planning — had not closed, and were hopeful to be able open tomorrow.

    But many had closed for today, were planning on being closed tomorrow, and working with law enforcement, again, out of that abundance of caution, to which you earlier referred.

  • John Yang:

    And I know you have also been speaking to officials at Oakland County high school, the school where the shooting took place.

    What was their message to you, and what was your message to them?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    Well, my message to them is that our — our profound condolences to you. What an enormous tragedy this was. We stand ready to help in whatever way or ways that we can.

    We have connected the district to some national resources, and people that have helped out in Parkland, helped out in Newtown in tragedies there. If they want to avail themselves of those resources, that's great. And if not, we certainly understand.

    Look, the good news is, is that, when a tragedy happens, there's an outpouring of support for the affected school or district. But it also puts a lot of pressure on the school or district. And we understand that the district has to sift through those potential resources and make determinations of what works best for it and what, perhaps, they can set aside.

  • John Yang:

    And the young man who has been charged with this shooting, there — we're learning that there was concern about some of his classroom behavior. His parents were actually at the school for a meeting the morning of the shooting.

    Are there things that you're learning from that that could be helpful as you move forward?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    It is very, very difficult to determine for many, many, many of these incidents that a person is going to take action, and, if he or she is going to take action, when he or she is going to do so.

  • John Yang:

    What can the state education system do, not just to help this particular school get through this, but schools across the state? How can you help them be safer and more secure?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    John, I believe our schools are, as a rule, pretty safe in this state. And they are certainly safer now than they were 22 years ago, when Columbine hit, 10 years ago, five years ago, three-and-a-half years ago, or three-and-three-quarters years ago, when Parkland hit.

    I think each of these has made us more cognizant about school safety and security. Schools are much less open than they used to be. Schools are far more likely to be locked. Just a few years ago, several years ago, schools were open, were wide open, in many, many, many cases.

    They're far more likely to be locked. They are far more likely to be single point of entrance. They're far more likely to have buzzers, cameras, intercoms outside of the schools.

  • John Yang:

    What do you think about metal detectors? I think Detroit has had metal detectors since 1985. What do you think about metal detectors statewide?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    I don't think metal detectors, as a rule, are the answer. They may help you at a ball game, a basketball game, a football game.

    But for day-to-day work in and around schools, I don't think that they're the answer. The answer is very strong communication within a community, within a school community, within a broader community, with young people informing adults when there are issues. Very, very critical, if you see something, say something.

  • John Yang:

    You have also talked about mental health being underfunded.

    What would you like to see done in that field?

  • Michael F. Rice:

    There is now a greater understanding in the last couple of years, and, in part, a function of the pandemic, John, that children's mental health issues are real. They're substantial. They need to be funded. They need to be addressed.

  • John Yang:

    Michael Rice, Michigan superintendent of public introduction, thank you very much.

  • Michael F. Rice:

    Thank you.

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