03-08-2018 Letters and Commentary

Dear Editor, In recent weeks, there have been several statements by students in some of our local schools amounting to a threat of violence. These cases were reported to local law enforcement. In each case, law enforcement has taken considerable time and with great speed to investigate, first to determine the imminence of a true threat of violence, then proceeding to gather evidence to forward to the Prosecutor’s Office to determine if the elements of criminal charges are met and if charges are appropriate given the particular circumstances. Each of these incidents recently are very different, however, similar in that early on they create fear, caution and anxiety for students, parents, faculty, school administrators, law enforcement and the public. Let me assure you in every incident school officials and law enforcement have taken these events seriously with their primary purpose to keep our community safe. All of these recent incidents involve minors. All the situations were found to be without a real basis to believe an actual act of violence was planned. They all appear to be minors saying words regarding school shootings in order to garner attention. Despite the lack of apparent ability or intent to do an act of violence, the law still prohibits making such threats or sending this type of threatening electronic communications. In a Bridgman Schools incident from several months ago but reported recently, it appears students overheard a conversation regarding school shootings, but these facts do not meet the elements of our terrorism statute. In a Berrien Springs Schools incident, students related to authorities a conversation they overheard regarding school shootings. However, the investigation disclosed some different versions of the same conversation. Regarding an incident at St. Joseph Schools, one student posted a message attributable to another student on Snapchat, which was seen by some students who told others creating a significant amount of stress and anxiety. School officials and law enforcement determined there was no imminent threat and in fact no threat at all. In the Bridgman, Berrien Springs and St. Joseph cases, no petition will be sought because the elements of some of the relevant criminal offenses are not met. The investigations of these incidents also make it appear there was no true threat of violence. School officials are taking appropriate action with regard to these students. In a Watervliet Schools incident an electronic communication was received by one student from another which included pictures, which, if read and believed, would cause fear of an imminent assault. Law enforcement quickly determined the identity of the sender and that it was not a true threat. At the Andrews Academy in Berrien Springs, a student sent electronic communications received by others, similar to the Watervliet incident, which, if read and believed, would have also caused fear of an imminent assault. Likewise, law enforcement quickly determined the identity of the sender and that it was not a true threat. In both the Watervliet and Andrews Academy cases, a petition will be filed with the Berrien County Juvenile Court alleging threatening electronic communications. However, it is unknown whether the cases will be accepted by the court or whether they will be dealt with in a formal or informal manner, thus no further details will be disclosed at this time. While this recent activity is likely a result of the news out of Florida, it is a good time for all: students, parents, faculty, and the public, to know that our school officials and law enforcement take these situations seriously and students will be dealt with to the extent possible in the criminal justice system. On the one hand, it is extremely unfortunate that an idle, attention getting, foolish misstep could inject a minor into the criminal justice system. On the other hand, students and parents have to realize that when charges can be brought, they will be; to make sure the student does not have real thoughts of terrorism and to deter them and others from future similar conduct. The police agencies from the above jurisdictions and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department investigated these incidents, in some cases with the assistance from the FBI and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. Michael J. Sepic Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney

Help patients rebound by giving blood

In March, while basketball teams are fighting for the chance to be crowned champions, patients battling cancer and other illnesses are fighting for their lives. The American Red Cross is asking blood donors to help patients rebound by making a lifesaving donation this spring. Donors of all blood types are needed to help ensure that the Red Cross can collect more than 13,000 blood and platelet donations needed every day for patients. Giving blood takes less time than it takes to watch a single basketball game. Make an appointment to donate blood by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). An upcoming blood donation opportunity is Friday, March 23, 12:00 noon to 5:45 p.m. at Federated Church, 65418 Red Arrow Hwy. in Hartford.

LaSata co-sponsors measure to provide better end-of-life care in hospice

Bill exempts hospice from mandated MAPS checks before prescribing State Rep. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township) cosponsored a bill to exempt hospice care providers from complying with bills introduced last year requiring health care providers to query the Michigan automated prescription system (MAPS), which was created to track controlled substances, and obtain a report from MAPS before prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance. Last year’s bills were intended to combat the state’s opioid epidemic and eliminate doctor shopping, the process of seeing multiple treatment providers, either during a single illness episode or to procure prescription medications illicitly. LaSata fully supports the efforts to put an end to the opioid crisis; however, she says the specific mandate should not pertain to hospice providers because patients there are admitted for end-of-life care. “Hospice and palliative care providers already have the delicate task of ensuring pain symptom relief for the terminally ill,” said LaSata. “The state cannot impede their ability to adequately care for their suffering patients. This legislation helps address that.” House Bill 5668 was referred to the House Health Policy Committee.