, Gloucester, MA


February 21, 2013

Letter: What's it worth to secure students' safety?

To the editor:

Since writing a letter supporting Amanda Kesterson’s petition for school security guards in Gloucester almost two weeks ago, I’ve seen some movement occur, yet way too slowly.

I praise the School Committee for supporting the petition and planning a hearing. If the Council deferred to hear the matter after the School Committee hearing on procedural grounds, then I will await their action. Yet some very disturbing things came out of the recent meeting.

When I sat on two elected boards in Rockport, if 10, 20, or 40 people came in with something needing discussion, they were heard. Even if one individual brought something in, it could be heard under “new business.” This 250-signature “threshold” for a hearing is ludicrous on its face.

Committee member Roger Garberg tried to hide behind the concept of “lowering the bar” for hearing matters of concern. Committee member Kathleen Clancy was just plain against, which may be her right but is rather irresponsible when charged with the safety of the school system.

Superintendent Richard Safier made, I believe, the most ludicrous comments when he listed his priorities as “culture and climate” and citing “the emotional well being” of the students.

I would invite Mr. Safier to check in with the Sandy Hook teachers and students now attending school in the two-story school building in nearby Monroe. Though somewhat happy, if they hear a loud noise like a desk banging upstairs everything stops. Nerves are on edge. These teachers and kids heard every gunshot and screaming over the loudspeaker. Siblings of the victims who were in the school now realize that they heard their brothers or sisters being murdered. It will live with them forever.

How’s that for “emotional well being”? How’s that for “climate”?

What Mr. Safier does not seem to realize is that, unfortunately, running a good school system now goes hand in hand with security. Picture a wonderful, huge, almost 350-pound guy in great shape. When the last bus empties, he throws a switch locking all exterior doors of the school. He is armed, yet not blatantly; over time, the kids get to know and love this guy, give him candy at Halloween, he gives out things during the year.

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