Another shooting forces W MI schools to confront issue

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Once again, school officials have the dire duty of trying to learn from a deadly school shooting.

Larry Johnson, executive director of public safety at Grand Rapids Public Schools and the chairman for the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials, talked to 24 Hour News 8 about how local schools are reacting.

“Every time we have one we think, ‘We’re hoping it’s the last one,” Johnson said.

But it is never the last one, and schools have to be ready.

“We’ve locked doors, we’ve added visitor management systems, card access, cameras, all of this technology,” Johnson said.

He says safety staff and all school personnel train continuously at GRPS thanks in no small part to a $175 million bond passed by voters in 2015. 

But technology alone is not enough.

 “That’s all the hardware—and if I’ve said it 100 times before – It’s really the ‘heart-ware’ that’s gonna make the difference, we’ve really gotta find out and get to the heart of young people,” Johnson said.

He says it seems each shooting seems to give motivation and education for the next.

“That’s the difficult part because all the training that you do, all the preplanning that you do, all the drills that you do, you think you’re in a great position to respond with the least amount of casualties or injuries as possible, but somehow kids are able to circumvent that and the casualty rate continues to climb,” Johnson said.

And these shootings, by and large, are not from some unknown menace.

“These are young people who have attended the school in the past or currently attending the school now and who have a legal right to be there,” Johnson said.

He says the issue does not start at school.

 “We now have to begin to work with families and families have to come forward when they know they have a young person struggling that’s living in a house with them every day,” Johnson said.

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