, Gloucester, MA

March 1, 2013

Letter: Speak up for students' safety, security

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

On March 27, the School Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss the issue of school security in Gloucester.

At that hearing, planned for 7 p.m. at West Parish School, anyone in our community who has any interest or ideas on the topic can come and speak, and I urge all of you to do so.

At a recent School Committee meeting, Superintendent Safier explained the security measures which currently exist in our schools, namely, creating a respectful school climate; locking the doors with buzzer systems, and a crisis response plan.

Two members of the School Committee, Kathleen Clancy and Roger Garberg, voted against a public hearing on the topic of more school security, because they feel that what is in place is enough, and that the topic did not bear more discussion.

The reality is that our pitifully weak “security” measures aren’t even properly enforced.

To wit, before the attack on Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., no one in our school administration, at any level, had even ensured that all of the doors in the district properly locked.

It is almost March, and there are many schools in the district which still have not practiced crisis response drills. There has been no discussion as to whether the crisis response plan is the best and most effective one to have in our buildings.

When one elementary school practiced it, there was total confusion, and the children hid under their desks for over 15 minutes, terrified, while teachers tried to figure out what was happening. At the high school, when there was a gun scare in December, the staff was confused as to how to handle the crisis, and parents found a lot of confusion, as well.

There is no one in our buildings who ensures that all exterior doors remain locked at all times, and it is often the case that staff in the buildings prop open the doors for convenience.

Even the buzzer system seems to provides little or no security, as there is no one with the training necessary to monitor who should or should not be buzzed into our school buildings.

This is safety?

It is deeply concerning that, not only do we have incredibly weak security procedures which aren’t even enforced in our district, but we have members of our School Committee who believe that those measures are enough. It should be clear to everyone in Gloucester by this point that major changes to our security systems have to take place. The status quo is woefully ineffective, and frankly, provides a false sense of security where none truly exists.

The only way to ensure that security measures are followed is to have trained security personnel in the buildings. These school resource officers will not only enforce and oversee security protocol as it currently exists, but they are trained to spot danger of any kind, and can handle a crisis should it arise. Teachers and principals should be focusing on education, and leave security to those trained to deal with it.

After listening to all suggestions at the public hearing, the members of the school committee, along with the Superintendent, must act to increase the security in our schools.

I, along with the 338 Gloucester residents who signed the petition thus far to install armed security at the schools, hope they will make the correct decision to effectively protect our children.

Gloucester’s children deserve far better than what is currently in place in our schools.