Peabody school board to discuss fallen officers memorial at high school

Courtesy photoThis memorial to officers killed in the line of duty in 2020, posted in a hallway at Peabody High School, has sparked controversy in the city.

PEABODY— The School Committee on Tuesday is slated to discuss the controversy over a memorial dedicated to fallen police officers on display in a hallway at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.

In a statement, Mayor Ted Bettencourt, Superintendent Josh Vadala and police Chief Thomas Griffin encouraged community members to email school board members with their concerns before Tuesday's meeting. 

“The school department believed that we had reached a satisfactory resolution last week through a collaborative process at PVMHS, with all parties involved, in terms of the location of the memorial," the officials said. "However, given the discussions in the community, we understand that concerns remain."

The memorial, a large poster with photos of police officers who have died in 2020, was hung by special education teacher Greg Shidler, according to posts he made on Facebook. Peabody Federation of Teachers President Mary Henry said previously it was her understanding that the memorial has been prominently displayed for the past few years.

This year, school officials were asked have the memorial removed. As a compromise, teachers union representatives asked that the memorial be relocated to a school resource officer’s office, Henry said.

 

“Building representatives went in, and my understanding is the resolution was satisfactory to everyone,” Henry said.

Bettencourt, Vadala and Griffin said the memorial remains in its original location, and it will not be moved until after further discussion. 

No one who spoke with the Salem News was able to comment on why the memorial was asked to be taken down.

“Our goal is to bring the community together and engage in a collaborative process that includes the perspectives of all stakeholders,” the officials said. “The school department, police department and Mayor Bettencourt continue to engage in an open dialogue.”

A separate statement from Vadala said the school department has “always and continues to unequivocally support our police department. We strive to create a nurturing and inclusive learning environment for our students and faculty. Our goal is to bring the community together and engage in a collaborative process that includes the perspectives of all stakeholders.”

An online petition calling for the memorial to remain prominently displayed in the hallway had nearly 450 signatures as of Friday night.

Staff writer Erin Nolan can be reached at 978-338-2534, by email at enolan@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @erin_nolan_.

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