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School Security Questioned Following Response to High School Lockdown

Everett High School. (Photo by Jim Mahoney)

Intense Statements/Discussion About Safety

By Josh Resnek

Nearly two hours of heated and at time passionate debate, and a succession of gut wrenching statements from parents of Everett High School students delivered during the public speaking session before the meeting produced profound interactions between School Committee members, police officials, the school superintendent and the public.

The issue: the safety protocols in force and what is being proposed and in the pipeline to tamp down violence which has been plaguing the high school.

Secondarily, a great deal of time was spent detailing the response of all Everett public officials and school administrators to the lock down of the high school necessitated by a call indicating there might be someone carrying a gun and planning to use it inside the school.

Police Chief Steve Mazzie told the School committee he believed the right call had been made and the right thing had been done by nearly everyone involved during the incident.

He said no one was arrested. No weapons were found. The situation was resolved successfully without any students being injured.

That lockdown and the resulting angst it caused, was evident throughout the long debate about what was done, what should be done and what can be done to stop a situation like that from happening again.

Four parents of Everett High School students recalled their fears and terror after learning of the lockdown. They all complained about feeling helpless and of being left out of the loop when they believed their children’s lives were apparently being threatened.

To a person, their presentations were honest and moving.

“No matter what we do, it is going to happen again,” School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert told her colleagues.

Her colleague School Committeewoman Millie Cardello agreed.

“It is a new world out there. We all have to work together to make sure we all know what’s going on,” she said.

School Committeeman Michael McLaughlin attempted to blame Superintendent Priya Tahiliani for her conduct. He claimed she wasn’t on the job. He was harshly corrected by the superintendent and by School Committee chair Jeannie Cristiano, who informed her colleagues that Tahiliani had followed the protocol all the way – and had been in touch with her from the very beginning of the situation until its resolution.

McLaughlin ignored the pleas of the parents who pointed a finger at him and all his colleagues on the school committee when they commented: “Not one of you was there. None of you understand.”

At one point during his attempted denunciation of Tahiliani, McLaughlin’s chief role for the mayor – who missed his second meeting in a row (the mayor is on vacation) – he suggested more troops on the ground are needed in the effort to reduce violence.

McLaughlin made sense with that suggestion.

This was in stark contrast to McLaughlin asking for a hiring freeze just two weeks ago, and the removal of the superintendent as secretary of the school committee and other alleged retaliations sought by the mayor against the superintendent in his apparent desire to force her from her position.

Locked doors that are left open, doors that are unmanned where students are entering, students who do not belong at the school entering the school and nearly all the student body wearing hoodies and failing to wear their identity badges makes keeping control and order extremely difficult to impossible.

Several school committee members wanted to know if arrests were made following altercation.

Mclaughlin suggested hiring 7 truant officers – an archaic idea doomed to failure according to those who he addressed.

The police pointed out that order is kept through knowledge not with force, arrests, or punitive or otherwise Draconian responses.

The police who work the high school beat believe coming to know the student body and the student body coming to know the police is key to maintaining order.

“This is how we learn of situations. We gain nothing by arresting kids,” said one of the high school police officers.

Tahiliani rolled out a full power point security plan indicating the wide variety of efforts being made to meet the needs of safety.

However, it was the echoes of the brilliant plaintive pleas made by parents of EHS students during the open speaking session that stood out.

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