PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Safety at Paw Paw Public Schools was a major point of contention Wednesday night at the district’s board meeting after a 15-year-old allegedly planned to attack the high school earlier this week.
The teen’s stepfather said the boy changed his mind and confessed the plan to his parents Sunday. The teen was apparently planning to hurt students who had bullied him “relentlessly” for the last year, his stepfather said.
The district said it is taking steps to improve mental health resources and recently implemented the antibullying Be Nice program, which is associated with the West Michigan Mental Health Foundation. There’s also the state-run OK2Say program, which takes anonymous tips about bullying or concerns about someone’s mental health.
The superintendent also talked about a peer mentoring program at the high school, counseling support and direct 911 service from any phone line in the school district.
“At the high school, they’ve got behavior boxes … in every classroom where they can write down anonymously something that they’ve seen, kind of like the OK2Say but right there at school,” Superintendent Sonia Lark told parents. “If there is reason to believe that that particular student would be could potentially have a problem any given day … they can be required to report to the office, report to a counselor or have that bag checked every day.”
But during public comment, parents were not convinced that the district is doing enough to keep their kids mentally healthy and safe. They said they don’t feel informed and that their kids don’t feel safe returning to school.
“I didn’t realize that people could report bullying on there and I wonder if the students know because this is one of the first I’ve heard of this program and so I think we really need to make the students aware that they have that opportunity,” one parent said.
Parents also felt there should be more counselors available and law enforcement help.
However, some parents said it’s not the district’s responsibility and preventing a problem starts at home with how children are raised.
“But I don’t think y’all should be patting yourselves on the back because you guys and the police department are not the ones who did this, took care of this. That mom did. She is the one who made sure that we are not suffering what Parkland did or Columbine did,” another parent said.
The board says it will be taking all parent feedback into consideration as it moves forward.
After the teen told his parents about his plan, they took him to the sheriff’s department. Authorities then found guns — which the teen apparently stole from his grandfather and then cut down so they would fit in a bag — and explosives in the family’s home. The teen now faces several criminal charges.