Massachusetts’ Patrick Creates School Safety Task Force

In Revere, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed an executive order that will establish a security task force with the set goal of ensuring the safety and protection of students in schools.

The task force to improve school safety will consist of a 20 member committee of representatives from state and local government offices. The officials will be included from the departments of education, public safety, health and human services.

The committee will look at what school districts are already doing in terms of safety. As reported by Sharman Saccheti of Fox 25, officials have stated that every school district in the state currently has a different emergency plan. Governor Patrick’s administration’s news release stated that a majority of school districts in Massachusetts are under-prepared or not prepared at all for emergency situations due to a lack of resources.

Jack Lepiarz of WBUR reported that the task force will seek to issue guidelines and best practices, not mandates, to districts around Massachusetts. The goal is to create a model plan that all of the school districts can work off of.

“In our commonwealth we range from sophisticated cities to rural villages,” the governor said at news press. “Not all circumstances, and indeed not all resources, are uniform.”

Due to the varying levels of resources, the mandates will allow schools to tailor the recommendations to meet their needs. Alison King of NECN reported that the Governor has asked the task force to issue these recommendations by this summer so plans can be in place before the next school year.

For many parents though, that may not be soon enough. The Governor’s signed order comes days after a 12-year-old boy wounded two students at a New Mexico middle school using a sawed off shot gun – the latest in a series of high profile school shootings including the tragedy at Columbine and the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 children and adults were killed just over a year ago.

“Well we know from the news it’s late. We know from the violence, it’s late,” parent Debra Digiulio said.

One of the biggest concerns reported by Alison King is how to monitor people going in and out of the school.

Back in 2007, FOX Undercover’s Mike Beaudet exposed loopholes in school security in Massachusetts, showing how one could easily walk in to many schools.

Despite this, many parents like Debra DiJiulio say they’re more concerned with what kids could sneak into school.

“The kids are coming in every day, and they’re coming in with backpacks, and I’m afraid of what’s in the backpacks,” she said, calling for metal detectors in all schools. “I think backpacks need to be screened. That’s my major concern.”

She says she’d like to see backpacks screened by metal detectors at the school entrances adding, “You see them when you’re coming into a court house – they’re screened, when you come into an airport, they’re being screened.” She continued by saying “Safety is more important to me than the tone in my mind.”

Others like parent volunteer John Kingston and Josh Vedala, the assistant principal at Whelan, are not so sure. They wish to keep students safe without scaring them and to still keep a welcoming environment.

“It’s really about collaboration and sharing good ideas,” Education Secretary Matt Malone stated about goal of the task force in response to parents and the public’s concerns.