In the spring of 1999, as a result of the Columbine shootings, as well as the string of other shootings in 23 schools since 1992, the Central Michigan area law enforcement agencies challenged the safe status of schools, specifically in Isabella County. With financial help from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mt. Pleasant, the Isabella County Community Intervention Task Force on School Violence was formed. This group was made up of representatives from local law enforcement, schools, mental health, clergy, and media, as well as from fire and emergency management. After two years of research, which included visits to schools where shootings had occurred, the group published a book of recommendations to address the issue of school safety.
In the late fall of 2001, with additional funding from the tribe, an implementation team was put into place, later to become the School Safety Alliance, with the task of putting these recommendations into practice. This is a task that has virtually no ending, as we can never consider the job of ensuring the safety of our kids a done deal. We must continue on the path that has been marked by the Isabella County Community Intervention Task Force on School Violence/School Safety Alliance and work to keep this project alive. And we must strive to make sure that each phase of this project is updated and infused with the most recent best practices.
On October 22, 2002, the Gratiot-Isabella RESD was given the responsibility to oversee and facilitate the Isabella County School Safety Alliance and to create a similar alliance in Gratiot County, named, The Gratiot County Safety Council. The Gratiot-Isabella RESD is happy to have been chosen as the lead agency for this important initiative. To be successful, however, it will require a sustained collaborative effort of all those entities identified by the original task force as well as the new members in Gratiot County.
In the fall of 2003, the Gratiot-Isabella RESD received a U.S. Department of Education Emergency Response and Crisis Management grant that provided for two half time coordinators to continue the work of the alliances. With the grant came the task of developing a website, which serves as a safety hub for schools, parents, law enforcement and other partners.
In the fall of 2008 the Gratiot, Isabella and Clinton County School Readiness and Emergency Management Project was funded by the Federal government.
The goal of the Gratiot, Isabella and Clinton County School Readiness and Emergency Management project was to improve and strengthen emergency response and crisis management plans in the local schools. As a consortium of over eighty public and nonpublic school buildings in central Michigan, the major need addressed was to advance each county’s School Safety Alliance to the highest level of best practices, in all four phases of crisis management.
The identified outcomes intended were to address critical gaps and weaknesses, and increase the ability of staff to respond to emergency and crisis situations through, 1)extensive staff training in NIMS, 2)pandemic influenza planning and response, 3) integrating students with special needs and disabilities into emergency response and crisis management planning, 4) improved communication with the parents and community regarding student/parent reunification planning, and 5) involvement of students in emergency response planning.
The experiences of Gratiot and Isabella County Alliances will move our participating schools forward in addressing potential crisis. While each county has it’s own unique set of circumstances, lessons learned from collaborating with neighboring partners will help improve efficiency of response within and across counties.
For further information on the School Safety Alliance and/or School Safety resource information, contact us.