By Christopher Roberson
One month after shots rang out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., more than 300 students at Lynnfield High School took part in a walkout to show their support for those who were lost that day and to send a message to federal lawmakers.
The event was part of #NationalSchoolWalkout, which called on schools across the country to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
Senior Nicholas Bisconti shared his thoughts during the March 15 walkout, which lasted 17 minutes – one minute for each life that was taken on the day when a dark cloud hung over the Sunshine State.
“Gun control needs to be a thing, something awful happened,” he said. “At times like this we need to band together.”
Another senior, Sebastian Fidel, said the display of support should extend beyond the high school.
“Everyone should show their support in a time of need,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay said she and her colleagues were impressed with how the students conducted themselves.
“The students walked around the front circle in an orderly and respectful matter,” she said in an email to parents. “We are extremely proud of how the student body handled themselves today, those who participated in the walkout and those who chose not to participate.”
During a prior interview, Tremblay outlined the various protocols that are in place to keep Lynnfield’s students safe. “In conjunction with the Lynnfield Police Department, we have made significant changes over the past few years in the area of security,” she said. “School security continues to be the number one priority in the Lynnfield Public Schools.”
One security measure was to assign Officer Patrick Curran as the full-time school resource officer. “This has been instrumental in helping us to be proactive with issues regarding our student body,” said Tremblay, adding that most of Curran’s time is spent at the high school.
In addition, she said the district has partnered with a police information-sharing network called COPsync. “All of our teachers have the ability to directly contact authorities from their classrooms if there is a threat,” said Tremblay. She said on one occasion, a teacher at Lynnfield Middle School accidently pressed the hidden emergency button, which triggered a police response in less than three minutes.
Tremblay also spoke about the district’s implementation of Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE). She said ALICE can be customized to respond to a myriad of situations. “ALICE does not necessarily flow step-by-step from alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate,” said Tremblay. “Each incident will dictate what may or may not be appropriate or useful to the person in harm’s way.”
In the event of emergency, Tremblay said, the caller should never use codes when speaking to the authorities. “The National Incident Management System forbids the use of code words,” she said. “Common language is essential, straightforward and direct.” From there, information would be broadcasted by a “designated person” over the school’s public address (PA) system.
“This is the right thing to do; knowledge and information are power and provide options to those in harm’s way,” said Tremblay. “Communication keeps the shooter off balance, constant real-time information is crucial in increasing survival chances.”
Tremblay said the person on the PA should also make a conscious effort to “intimidate the intruder” by announcing the shooter’s location and movements, which can be observed on camera. “If the intruder is aware and angry with movements being announced, he may fear cameras. Any time spent on cameras is time he is not killing kids,” she said. “If he attempts to shoot out cameras, he is expending his limited supply of ammunition. Both of these are good things for the good guys.”
Although putting a school in lockdown is another “good starting point,” Tremblay said, it would take time for the police to enter the building. “Once a threat has been recognized and reported, the only way to call ‘all clear’ is for law enforcement to do so; this may be hours,” she said.
Should the shooter enter a classroom, Tremblay said, those in the room must do whatever is necessary to stay alive. This includes moving around, creating a distraction by throwing objects or overwhelming the intruder’s central nervous system by screaming. “These are lifesaving techniques; we can’t afford to sit in the corner waiting for law enforcement to arrive and save the day,” she said. “History has shown more active shooters have been stopped by individual action than by law enforcement.”
There was also an incident on Feb. 26 in which Tremblay said: “a student was overheard making a general, nonspecific threat against the safety of Lynnfield High School.” She said the incident triggered an instant response from school officials and the Police Department. Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s Office was also notified.
The accused individual was subsequently removed from the high school pending the outcome of a police investigation.