Hillman principal issues post-threat procedures for students

News Photo by Barbara Woodham Students at Hillman Community High School enter a backpack free classroom on Tuesday.

HILLMAN — A letter went out to parents on Facebook on Jan. 2 from Kayla Nichols, secondary principal of Hillman Community Schools.

This letter comes after a threat made at Hillman Junior/Senior High School on Monday, Dec. 20 in the form of a written message on a bathroom wall caused the school to issue a soft lockdown, search and closure.

The letter consists of a list of four “expectations” for students.

Among other restrictions, no backpacks or athletic bags will be allowed in classrooms or bathrooms, bags will be checked before students enter locker rooms, and extra personnel will be used to monitor a one-person limit in bathrooms, according to the letter.

Nichols said in an interview, on Tuesday, that this letter is solely in response to the incident on Dec. 20.

“If something like this happens, I have to react and I have to change something,” said Nichols. “I don’t wanna work in a place where I feel unsafe, my own children are in this building.”

She said that the middle school students have never been allowed to bring bags into the classroom, so this is only a change for the high school students.

Atlanta Community Schools Administrator Tawny Hisscock, said on Tuesday, that she has had the no bags in the classroom policy in Atlanta for the past three to four years.

Hilman School District is a part of The Northeast Michigan School Safety Collaborative, a safety collaboration group involving local school districts, law enforcement and emergency responders.

According to Lee Fitzpatrick, director of communications for Alpena Public Schools, the steps in this letter are specific to Hillman and not a procedure adopted by the collaboration as a whole.

The letter on Facebook got an array of comments ranging from “good for Hillman” to “Well by law you cannot search the students without a parent present because they’re underage.”

According to Nichols, she does have the authority to search students if there is a safety reason.

“The police don’t have the authority, but I do, to search bags if I suspect something,” said Nichols.

She said that after the investigation into the initial incident is complete, she will revisit the policy.

As of Tuesday, according to the Montmorency County Sheriff’s office, the investigation is still underway and no new information is being released at this time.

The question arises, will Nichols search the bags of students from other districts as they come into Hillman High School for sporting events?

“Our athletic director has talked to neighboring schools that before their kids get on the bus that they would search their backpacks, so that when they do arrive here, they have already been searched,” answered Nichols.

Nichols has assigned posts in the hallways for staff to stand during class changes to put more eyes on the students.

She said that is a good thing and the interaction between staff and students on the first day of this implementation was a great thing for both staff and students.

The new policies were overseen by Interim Superintendent Pamela Rader.

“Kayla is making sure that students are safe and learning,” said Rader.

234 students had their bags and lockers searched on the day of the incident and according to Nichols there was not one illegal substance found of any kind, not even a lighter.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Nichols, “That’s huge.”

She said that the students have been very cooperative through all this and they want to be safe, as well.

She also said that the machines for feminie hygiene products in the bathrooms will be made free of charge to students and clear backpacks will be made available to loan to students that are on crutches or if there is some other reason why they would not be able to carry their books to class in their arms.

Alpena Public Schools had its own threat incident back on Dec. 9, Superintendent Dave Rabbideau could not be reached for comment on whether APS is thinking of implementing any of these specific policies in it’s schools.

According to Fitzpatrick, APS is continuing to work hard to keep it’s students safe.

Scroll down to view a letter sent by Hillman Principal Kayla Nichols to parents on Facebook.

Letter from Kayla Nichols by barbara woodham on Scribd


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