School Committee Reviews Active Shooter Safety Measures
NEW BEDFORD — It's been just about a month since the school shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 people dead. Since then, school safety measures to be taken in active shooter situations have grown into a national discussion.
The City of New Bedford has also taken on the task of securing city schools with the City Council unanimously voting in February to refer a motion asking Mayor Jon Mitchell, Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, and the Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods to seek security enhancements in reaction to active shooter situations.
The School Committee briefly reviewed district wide safety measures during a meeting on Monday night, but didn't get into the specifics of what's being planned.
Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin opened the discussion by mentioning that the specifics of the safety precautions being undertaken will be further discussed by the Committee in executive session.
“I want to be clear that we are doing a lot to keep our schools safe. We are taking this very seriously,” Durkin said during the meeting. “Very specific steps are being taken to ensure that what we have in our schools are working well and that we are making them better.”
Durkin also announced that the district will be providing mandatory ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) training for all teachers and staff of New Bedford Public Schools.
School Committee Member John Oliveira suggested that students also participate in some sort of training program so they know where to go and what to do during an active shooter situation. He says it takes “a change in culture and mentality from students, parents, and staff to make this work and to make our schools safe.”
“People have to physically know what they're going to do. I'm not saying you have to drill every month, but a couple times a year or once a year, kind of like the fire drills to get people focused,” argued Oliveira. “This is a skill that people need in today's society. I've been all over the world and it's a skill that's learned all of Europe, and it's a skill we still need to learn in the United States.”
Josh Amaral, also of the School Committee, disagrees with Oliveira about subjecting students to the training, and says it would be too “traumatic” for them.
“Obviously with these recent events everybody is thinking about this very closely. I also want to caution against the idea that we turn our schools into these fortresses that are designed to keep everybody out, including the community partners and folks that we want to see in the school that don't pose a danger, but actually add value to the school,” Amaral explained. “I think some districts across the country have gone a little overboard in terms of some of the investments they've made to fortify their schools and some of the drills that they've done that don't do much more than scare the kids so I think we need to prepare but we also need to be responsible.”
Following the brief review, the School Committee adjourned the portion of the meeting open to the public to further discuss the district wide safety measures in more detail in executive session.