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UPDATE: Superintendent Explains Lockdown in Letter to Parents

WDIV-TV apologized to West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Gerald Hill Tuesday.

Updated: 9:39 a.m., Dec. 19 with information from letter

A television photographer testing school security in the aftermath of shootings in Connecticut caused the building to go on lockdown Monday, according to Superintendent Gerald Hill.

Hill said at Monday's School Board meeting that Gretchko Elementary School's Principal, Sally Drummond, called West Bloomfield Police about 11:30 a.m. after unsuccessfully confirming the photographer's identification, after the reporter tried to get into the school.

"The doors were all locked and the person wasn't able to get in," Hill said. The photographer had tried to access every exterior door at the school, according to Hill, which alerted teachers to tell the principal. Then, Hill said, Drummond saw the photographer in the parking lot.

"The person in the parking lot shook her hand, congratulations, you have a very secure school," Hill said. "He didn't have a camera or any identification, but he told her he was a reporter from Channel 4 news doing a story."

Hill asked Drummond to file a police report and said that West Bloomfield Police recommended the district's schools go into a "soft lockdown" mode — to cancel recess and to keep the doors locked — handled by teachers and administrators. The district later found out that the photographer was indeed testing security measures as part of a larger project from WDIV-TV in Oakland County, according to Hill.

"With the heightened sense of concern after what happened in Connecticut, parents will want to know: is there someone out there that's trying to be a copycat? That was my concern. I think it was poor judgment. A story? Fine, but go to the doors and see if they're unlocked, then identify who you are. That kind of thing was inappropriate, in my opinion," Hill said.

Hill's reference to timing is in regard to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in which 27 people died — including 20 children, six adults and the shooter, identified by officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

According to a letter sent home to parents on Tuesday, Hill said that in a meeting between the district, WDIV-TV and Police Chief Mike Patton, the news agency explained it had received a tip from a parent at Gretchko concerned with safety.

"A Gretchko parent ... contacted the station and expressed concern that the doors at the school were unlocked and that people could gain access without using the normal secure entry system," Hill wrote.

Hill continued that he received a verbal apology from a news director at the station.

Read more:

  • Connecticut School Shooting: How to Discuss with Your Children

How do you feel about the investigative reporting? Is it ever OK to test school districts in this way? Continue the conversation with West Bloomfield Patch on Facebook and Twitter.

Timothy Rath December 19, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Hi, Mary! Are you able/willing to describe the letter you received from WBSD regarding Monday's incident? Feel free to call me at 248-622-7994 or email tim.rath@patch.com. Thanks!
Kelly Scott December 19, 2012 at 02:01 AM
A letter sent out today from the Superintendent, Gerald D. Hill, suggests that it was a Gretchko parent who contacted the news station and expressed concern that the doors at the school were unlocked and that people could gain access without using the normal secure entry system.
Angie December 19, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I am a 4th grade school teacher and can't believe a reporter would be so cruel and go around rattling locked doors the first school day after the shooting in CT. On Monday I was worried that the children had seen some of the horrible coverage on television and went to work with a heavy heart. What if something like that happened here? Would I be able to keep the children calm and reassure them that they would be OK? If a shooter busted into my classroom what would I throw at him in an effort to make him drop his gun? How would I deal with the horrors that the teachers in Newtown are now facing? I was worried and my main focus was on making the day as normal as possible. Throughout the day I found myself triple checking visitors to make sure they had guest tags. I am infuriated that the reporter did not stop to think about how his trying to gain entry through locked doors might scare and traumatize students and staff. Haven't we all been through enough worrying, cried enough tears, and worked through numerous "What ifs"? Shame on the reporter and on the parent (mentioned by another reader) for not contacting the school to ask about safety procedures instead of causing havoc and fear in innocent educators and teachers!
Timothy Rath December 19, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Thanks for the info, Kelly!
mkassel December 20, 2012 at 05:56 AM
is it possible the same concerned parent that called WDIV has a concern with the security at walled lake schools? Was told by a co worker she received an e mail re same situation.

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