LAPEER COUNTY — Fifty-one weeks ago tragedy struck Oxford High School when four students were killed in a shooting.
In the intervening year since, the topic of school safety and security has been on the forefront of minds of administrators, teachers, students and families throughout the area. But with the anniversary of the violence that occurred at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021 on the horizon, Lapeer County schools are planning remembrances and gestures of support for their neighbors to the south.
At Chatfield School, students and staff will observe a Blue and Gold Oxford colors day next week in support of the Oxford High School community. “We want the students and staff at Oxford High School to know that we care about them, we are thinking about them, and we want the best for them,” said Chatfield School Co-Principal Bill Kraly. “We want all of our students here in Lapeer County to know that we — law enforcement, schools, churches, parents, teachers, counselors, social workers, and community — are all working together to support them and keep them safe.”
Like Chatfield, many area schools are planning to don the colors of Oxford Community Schools on Nov. 30. In North Branch, students at Ruth Fox Middle School and North Branch High School will be encouraged to wear Oxford colors in support of the Oxford community, and high schoolers will observe a moment of silence in remembrance of the four students — Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shills — whose lives were cut short, as well as the six students and teacher who were injured.
Lapeer Community Schools has designated Nov. 30 as Blue-Gold Day with LCS students encouraged to wear Oxford colors to honor the Oxford High School shooting victims. The district’s Bolt Blog explained to LCS students and parents, “This is a somber anniversary for the Oxford community. Because of this, we want to ensure that we remember this day in a manner that honors the victims and their loved ones in an appropriate manner. This day, as tragic as it was, is also an important reminder of how we, as neighbors, support one another in times of tragedy.”
At Dryden Community Schools, teachers and staff participate in a “Wear It Wednesday” every week. Every Wednesday has a theme, and on Nov. 30 that theme will be Blue and Gold Day. Also on Wednesday, blue-and-gold ribbons, as well as red ribbons for Dryden, will be provided to any student or staff member at Dryden Junior/ Senior High School upon request. Junior High students in Dryden are going a step further, coloring messages of hope and happiness that will be hand-delivered to Oxford Community Schools next week.
The outpouring of support from Lapeer County schools is nothing new. Shortly after the tragedy occurred, districts throughout the area expressed solidarity with Oxford Community Schools, donning the district’s colors and “Oxford Strong” shirts and participating in a number of community vigils and fundraisers in support.
All districts and schools in Lapeer County have cited the Oxford tragedy as an impetus for increasing security measures in their buildings, with several holding public forums on the topic last December. Since the tragedy, all staff and students in the county have undergone ALICE training, while many buildings have seen upgrades to door locks and other deterrents. North Branch Area Schools became the first in the state to institute a new security badge system, and safety and security upgrades are among the top line items to be addressed at Lapeer Community Schools with funds generated from a bond proposal approved by district voters on Nov. 8.
“If we all watch out for each other and work together,” said Kraly, “our community is safer and stronger.”
Prosecutors have said they are seeking a life sentence without possibility of parole for the 16-year-old suspect. The former student plead guilty to 24 charges in October, including first-degree murder and terrorism. Sentencing is scheduled to occur following a hearing on Feb. 9, 2023.