To the editor:
I am writing to congratulate the School Committee on its move to place a school resource officer — hopefully a Gloucester police officer — at Gloucester High School.
It is a step in the right direction. At the recent public hearing on school security, our new police chief acknowledged that a police officer would act as a deterrent to an armed assailant. It seems an obvious point. Since crazy isn’t necessarily stupid, those who wish to attack the defenseless are far less likely to attack if they may be stopped.
Having worked with my daughter, Amanda Kesterson, a mother of three who saw the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children and six adults as a warning that Gloucester should focus much more attention on school security, I witnessed some disturbing actions by our city government.
First, it is crystal clear that certain city employees and some elected officials made it a point to complicate the process in which citizens could address their concerns to their elected representatives. Irrespective of your view on this issue, I believe most would agree that access to our elected officials should be open.
Discussion is always a good; ideas are born of the free exchange of views. The actions taken to block access was shameful and, I believe, a violation of the city charter. Even when 343 citizens signed a petition, two School Committee members, Roger Garberg and Kathy Clancy, voted to deny the right of the people to be heard.
These actions should disturb every citizen, as access is critical in a democracy.
Second, at the public hearing, a number of speakers advanced the belief that the presence of a Gloucester police officer in the schools would scare and intimidate the children. One speaker went so far as to state that a police officer would cause the children to feel unsafe.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Do we not teach our children to dial 911 in an emergency? Do we not teach our children that police officers are their friends and to seek out the police when threatened?
Advancing negative stereotypes of our police does harm to the Police Department, the community; and, especially, to our children. I imagine this negative depiction of our police must have been painful for Mayor Kirk and Police Chief Campenello to hear.
I trust that, as with the D.A.R.E. program, when police were routinely in the schools, this action by the School Committee to place a trained professional police officer in our high school will result in an enhanced comfort level for students, teacher, and parents.
And, it should be the first step in enhancing our children’s safety while administrators, teachers, and students focus on the goal of education.
JOSEPH M. ORLANDO, Esq.