, Salem, MA

Local News

December 18, 2012

North Shore schools react to tragedy: Are we ready?


As in other communities, Beverly police do periodic training with school staff. But is it enough? Could it be better? There are always ways to improve.

“I think we are going to focus on getting training with our new teachers up front at the beginning of the school year,” Galinski said.

The importance of training was reinforced by news reports of the heroism and professionalism of the Sandy Hook staff, who locked doors, drew blinds and did their best to get students to safe places.

“Those teachers did everything they possibly could,” said Kelleher. “They basically saved most of those children. Unfortunately, not all...”

Area police departments have been trained in tactical responses to incidents like this. But, unlike Columbine, the standard procedure today is totally different than it was in 1999.

“The model then was time is on your side,” said Tucker, Salem’s police chief. “That’s absolutely not the way to respond anymore.”

Today, officers enter a building, form as a team if more than one officer is present and proceed rapidly to the scene of the threat.

There are also back-up forces available in a prolonged incident. NEMLEC, the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, a regional resource, has a rapid response team with blueprints of most schools.

This tragedy has raised questions about security systems and video cameras. The newest schools, like Beverly High, have cameras throughout the building, but that appears to be the exception.

Many school systems have a full-time police officer — a school resource officer — assigned to the schools. But cities and towns have faced budget cuts in recent years and some of those police resources have been scaled back. Salem, for example, once had three resource officers. Now, it has one.

Although the talk on TV sets and radio has been largely about safety, schools may have been even more focused yesterday on the well-being of their students. How were they reacting to the tragedy? What should teachers be doing?

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