Some Grand Haven parents upset they weren’t told sooner about potential attack

Posted at 9:48 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 23:23:07-04

GRAND HAVEN, Mich.-- Some parents of Lakeshore Middle School students expressed anger that they were not told about a potential threat against the school until after class was already in session on Thursday.

The Ottawa County Sheriff and the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety says that four middle school students are being investigated after a parent tipped them off around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday that they were allegedly discussing a proposed attack at Lakeshore Middle School.

“Terror, fear. I mean, if it could happen in Santa Fe, it could happen here," parent Amy Bilicki tells FOX 17 is what went through her mind when she checked her email around 12:05 p.m. Thursday to learn about the proposed attack.

Bilicki and other parents took to Facebook on Thursday to express their frustration about not being able to make the choice to send their child to school or not because a proposed threat was discovered.

“My son is sitting in the school and I have no information," Bilicki says. She felt the email gave very little information about the severity of the proposed attack.

Bilicki says she was told by the school that police decided when parents would be notified. She says she ultimately decided not to take her son out of school early on Thursday because she didn't want to scare him more than he already was due to the heavy police presence on school grounds.

“I felt that he probably was safe at school at that point but the fact that we weren’t made aware of that prior is what really upset me," Bilicki says.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Ingall says he stands by how the situation was handled and that the school will continue to develop its protocol for threats against student safety.

A parent called Ottawa County dispatch at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday after they had heard about the threat. Law enforcement contacted Grand Haven Area Public Schools and began investigating.

“They worked through the night, both the officers and the school staff to identify the students involved," Chief Jeff Hawke with Grand Haven Public Safety tells FOX 17.

Police interviewed the students and conducted searches and did not find any weapons with any of the students or their parents.  Police determined that the students did not have the means to carry out the threat. Those four students now face possible charges with the Ottawa County Prosecutor.

"There’s no room for error here, and so there’s no room for jokes, copycats, or anything," Ingall says. "The aftermath of 'it was a joke, it wasn’t serious, it was this, it was that’—too many young people have died in real events... It’s serious, and we’re going to take it that way.”

Bilicki says she's disappointed with how the school handled the situation and that if she had known sooner, she never would have sent her son to school.

“Our children are our most precious commodity and these children are seeing what’s going on in these other towns and they can emulate any situation," Bilicki says. “It’s terrifying, I mean it’s sick. We shouldn’t have to live like this.”

The four students in question now face possible charges from the Ottawa County Prosecutor.

Late Thursday, the President of the Grand Haven Area Public Schools Board of Education sent this note to parents and posted it on Facebook:

Dear Grand Haven Community,

As president of the GHAPS Board of Education, let me take a moment to thank you allowing us the privilege of caring for and educating your children. We know today has been stressful for everyone as word of the threat against Lakeshore Middle School became public knowledge. Please rest assured that our District leaders and local law enforcement made every decision carefully, with student safety as our top priority. The day at Lakeshore and our other schools proceeded without incident, and we are thankful for all who continue to keep our children safe.

Many have asked why parents were not notified earlier, or why only parents of Lakeshore Middle School students received email notification of the incident. Release of information in situations like this is coordinated with local law enforcement, but we welcome your feedback on how the District can help parents feel more secure about our approach to student safety.

Each Board of Education meeting includes dedicated time for community members to share their thoughts and concerns. The schedule and meeting agendas are publicly posted on the District website, and that is truly the best forum for you to engage with the Board.

Again, thank you for being wholeheartedly invested in your students' educational experience at GHAPS.
John Siemion

The incident is still under investigation.