, Gloucester, MA

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April 1, 2013

Letter: Let security hearing spark more input

To the editor:

Last Wednesday, a public hearing was held at West Parish Elementary School in response to a petition which I circulated to install Gloucester police officers in each of Gloucester’s public schools.

The petition, which was submitted to the School Committee on the night of the hearing, was signed by 343 Gloucester residents.

There have been many in Gloucester who have opposed not just my proposal, but the very idea that our school and city leaders should be challenged at all. It is troubling that Gloucester residents would oppose not just an opinion, but the right of someone to voice it publicly to those who have been elected to serve us. It is more troubling that some on the School Committee sought to avoid listening to those who elected them, because they disagreed with the proposal.

It’s alarming that city officials violated state law by refusing to accept signatures on my petition, though, to date, they can not find any legal basis in our city charter to do so. When pressed for a legal answer, city counsel Suzanne Egan wrote in her memorandum, “the charter is silent with respect to electronic signatures.” The silence of the charter, along with state and federal law allowing these signatures, means that the actions taken by the city clerk in seeking to block this petition lacked legal support.

Happily, many members of the School Committee did not allow the city clerk to stonewall the efforts of hundreds of Gloucester residents to speak publicly. The resulting conversation on Wednesday night was a fantastic model for respectful dialogue on a complex issue. While I submitted a specific proposal, I have maintained to all who have discussed this issue with me that securing schools should be a multi-faceted approach, and no option should be off the table.

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