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Ottawa Area ISD highlights safety and security network amid Oxford school tragedy

The collaboration hosts two summits every year where they discuss ways to enhance safety.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — When school shootings happen, many worry about their own children's safety. For students in Ottawa County, a comprehensive, collaborative group works all year round to prioritize safety. 

"The schools in this area take security and safety very, very seriously," said Michael Rohwer, Asst. Superintendent for Innovation, Technology, Information and Security Services for Ottawa Area ISD.

In 2017, the district created the Ottawa Area Secure Schools Network (OASSN). 

"We have all the first responder agencies, hospitals, EMS, fire, the health departments, and really everyone you can imagine that would be involved," said Rohwer, who also heads the OASSN.

The district said "the purpose of the OASSN is to bring together all relevant parties to work toward regional-based solutions to common safety and security issues facing K-12 educational institutions."

The collaboration hosts two summits every year where they discuss ways to enhance safety. 

"These are a way for us to kind of bring in relevant items to bear and to the forefront," said Rohwer, "we talk, and come together, and really learn from one another."

But even during the rest of the year, all of the agencies work behind the scenes making sure our schools are safe both in-person and online.

"There is a ton of work trying to identify students that may need some additional help from either a mental perspective or emotional or behavioral perspective," said Rohwer, "because tragedies can happen anywhere."

"If anyone is giving the 'it can never happen here' line, they're not telling an accurate truth," he added. 

Rohwer said of course they hope they'll never have to use their plans, but if a tragedy like the one in Oxford were to happen, "we're in a good position."

"We will try to capture it early, try to prevent it, but can deal with an incident and then afterwards, deal with the aftermath," he added.

Rohwer said Ottawa County has also invested largely in their school resource officer program through the Sheriff's Office.

"At least all of the public schools and public education agencies have at least one school resource officer assigned to them," said Rohwer.

You can read more about OASSN by clicking here.

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