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Advocate

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School committee meets in wake of tragic Texas school shooting

David Callahan Police Chief

Police chief seeks review and reassessment of school safety policies

One of the most excruciating fallouts of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting was the amount of time it took police to enter the school during an active shooter situation.

During a special meeting of the School Committee’s Safety and Security Subcommittee on Tuesday, one School Resource Officer promised that would not happen if worst ever came to worst in Revere. “I know the elephant in the room is, ‘Why did the cops wait an hour to go in?’” said Officer Joseph Singer. “According to Revere Police procedures, we do not wait. My captain, my sergeant, my SWAT commander will back this up; we go with what we have. God forbid, if there is an active shooter scenario, we are going in right away.”

School Resource Officer Sgt. Joseph Internicola concurred. “We would never hesitate to put our lives on the line for anyone in these buildings,” he said. “We’re here for our love of children and the people doing this job.”

Tuesday’s meeting was called in the wake of the Texas school shooting, said Subcommittee Chair Susan Gravellese. Gravellese said there has been outreach from parents and the community about safety and security measures at the schools following the shooting. “We try to reassure everyone that safety and security is always of the utmost importance and that we do make this a top priority,” said Gravellese.

Gravellese said the committee is also working to organize a larger public community forum on school security and safety that will include the police and fire chiefs, similar to a forum held in August of 2019.

On Tuesday, several School Committee members asked if there are improvements that could be made to make the schools safer, and if the schools should provide more drills and training for active shooter scenarios.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly said the police and fire chiefs, along with the school resource officers, create comprehensive safety plans for each of the district’s schools that are updated annually and are shared with staff. “They are not something that we publish on our websites,” said Kelly. “We don’t want people with nefarious ideas understanding what our safety protocols and plans are because it could create safety risks.”

Kelly also touched upon the bigger picture of making sure schools are safe and students feel safe. “There is some tension between creating some spaces that might feel physically safe and secure because there are armed security people at every door … and some districts argue for a metal detector at every door,” she said. “There are other schools of thought – that I openly ascribe to – that focus on making sure we are finding resources and support for any students demonstrating any kind of social and emotional disruptions.”

Kelly said she wants to caution against the sometimes knee-jerk reactions that adding more security people will prevent incidents such as the one in Texas. She did praise the role the school resource officers play in the district and said everyone plays a role in keeping the schools safe.

School Committee Member Aisha Milbury-Ellis asked Kelly if there are any plans to implement active shooter training for staff and teachers. Kelly said there were no immediate plans to do so, noting that safety plans are reviewed at the beginning of every year, and that the district reviews different aspects of action based on a wide variety of scenarios.

Internicola said many surrounding communities do use the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active shooter drills and training, and that he is going to be attending class on the program that could help provide further insight into whether Revere should consider adopting it.

“We are going to review and reassess every single thing we are doing, and if there are things we can change and make adjustments, that’s what we are going to do,” said Police Chief David Callahan. “There’s always room for improvement. We do a pretty good job here, and we have for many years, but we can assess and learn from other incidents that have gone on and do a little better.”

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