GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Grand Rapids Public Schools hosted county-wide school security officer training to share best practices with teams throughout the county.

This year about 100 officers throughout Kent County participated in the training just before the start of the school year and they learned from an officer who lived through the tragic school shooting at Oxford High School where four students were killed.

Jason Louwaert was an Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy who worked as the school resource officer at Oxford High at the time of the tragedy in 2021. He was the officer who ultimately took the shooter into custody. 

“There was just pure evil in operation that day from the person that did this,” Louwaert said of the tragedy in an interview after the training.

Louwaert has since retired from the sheriff’s department and he now works for Secure Education Consultants, a team of public safety professionals who partner with school communities to enhance their work in protecting children at school.

“You have to be prepared to do your job,” Louwaert said. “You can’t make this up as this event is unfolding. You’re not going to come up with good ideas that you’ve never thought before when there’s bad things happening all around you and there’s chaos.”

Louwaert’s experience demonstrates how serious the work of school security can become in an instant. While much of the information he shared relates to tactical preparations, he also emphasized the importance of the relational side of school security.

“I think there’s a lot more stories out there about “Hey, I didn’t go down this path” because of this interaction with this security guard, or this teacher, or this counselor, or even the custodian that was just nice to somebody that nobody else is nice to,” Louwaert said. “I think kids that are troubled are often looking for that and it can be very simple to give it to them if we just look for that opportunity.”

The training session Louwaert conducted was part of a week-long intensive training period for officers. Participants go through 48 hours of back-to-school training which includes additional training hours in their home districts. Other collaborative training sessions include mental health first-aid, threat assessment, diversity equity and inclusion, and professional conduct.

“We have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to public safety and school security in the community. Coming together for training allows us to learn from one another and enhance our ability to partner effectively when the need arises,” Larry Johnson, GRPS Chief of Staff and Executive Director of School Security said. “While each team represents a different school district, at the core we all want to protect school children wherever they are.”

Superintendents from GRPS, Kentwood Public Schools, and Rockford Public Schools also participated in the training. The leaders shared insight on their vision for the future of school security.