Students and visitors heading into and out of Gloucester High School for today’s first day of school will find a new figure manning an office in the school’s front reception area.
It won’t be a new school administrator or counselor. It will be Gloucester Police Sgt. Michael Gossom, the Gloucester Public Schools’ new school resource officer. And we can only hope it doesn’t take long for all to recognize just what type of resources Gossom can help provide, and prove to be.
On the surface, Gossom – who will be in uniform, complete with firearm — will provide an important measure of security that can be called upon within the school when needed. And it’s important to note that, while he will be based at GHS, he will boost the security of the city’s other schools when he visits those facilities as well.
It was through safety and security concerns — largely raised by resident Amanda Kesterson in the wake of last December’s Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre — that the idea of providing security guards or police officers for city schools began to take hold.
But as he sets up shop today, it’s important that students, parents, school officials and city residents alike recognize this important pilot program for what it can bring — a sense of comfort for students who can talk to and share concerns with a police officer, and a chance for the Police Department, through Gossom, to gain new insight into the issues students and other Gloucester youths are facing in their daily lives, and a new appreciation for building relationships with them as well.
If all goes well — and there’s every reason to think it should — Gossom’s presence in Gloucester High or elsewhere in the city’s school system will not be seen as a mere security measure, but as perhaps the ultimate positive step in community policing. And in that vein, it should not only help Gossom and the Police Department deal with the city’s students, teachers and parents — and vice versa — but should lay the groundwork for working in confidence with many of these students for years to come.
There may still be some school officials who question whether this step is necessary – and whether Gossom should be carrying his weapon in the school. But Police Chief Leonard Campanello noted the reason for that — the fact that Gossom must be prepared to respond in the event he’s called to an outside emergency during the school day.
The fact is, police officers in schools have long provided a positive interactive presence for students at other schools for years, and that type of community policing is an ideal fit for Gloucester, a city built upon lasting, close-knit neighborhoods and longtime local family ties.
With that, we wish Sgt. Gossom and the entire Gloucester High and Gloucester school community the best in this new school year. And may this new program draw the confidence and support it deserves from all sides.