Oak Park superintendent says more safety support is needed for state schools

State funding is going toward providing more protection for students and staff at schools - but is it enough?

Oak Park is among 195 school districts, intermediate school districts and public school academies that will be getting nearly $25 million dollars to hire nearly 200 school resource officers for the next three years, according to a release sent out by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office Tuesday.

"We had applied for four resource officers, they awarded us one," said Oak Park Superintendent Angel Abdulahad.

You can call it a start for the district, but Abdulahad says more help is needed to keep the roughly 4,000 students in his district safe.

"On that piece on its own yields very little dividend, however they also awarded us mental health supports and we also applied for more funding for biometric readers." the superintendent said.

Oak Park is still reeling from when a teen was shot several times outside the high school after a basketball game was played. The suspects tried to steal the victim’s chain according to investigators.

"Our students were a victim in that situation," said Abdulahad. "We had visitors that should not have been there."

"It’s heartbreaking. It’s sad. And we had to change the way we allow visitors in. And we have to explain to parents that we have to be stricter now because of the behavior now of the few.

"And I believe you’re going to start seeing that not just in our district, but throughout the community."

The increases in school violence including the deadly mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2022. That, along with threats that turn out to be bogus undoubtedly on the minds of the panel made up of educators and police who awarded the grants - giving priority to schools without officers on patrol, and schools from towns with lower enrollment and less total funding.

The money, administered by the State Police Grants and Community Services Division will cover salaries, benefits and training of school officers. Each locality has to put up a 50 percent match.

"However we do need more resources," said Abdulahad. "We need more funding in educating our parents. I’ve not seen a lot of resources dedicated to parents and how to inform them."

And with the new state legislative session up and running, Oak Park's superintendent hopes school leaders from our area will continue to keep the issue of safety on the front burner.

"I think superintendents need to be part of the conversation because we are the boots on the ground," he said. "We can provide feedback that otherwise, legislators would not know about."