February 28 2018

Police Address School Committee Concerns on School Safety

By: Robert Parris

During Tuesday Night’s School Committee Meeting, the Burlington Police Department had a brief discussion about school safety and their protocols for keeping students safe.

School Safety is a national problem that has been affecting schools throughout the United States, parents are trying to keep their children safer in school after the recent shooting which happened in Parkland Florida leaving 17 dead and 14 injured.  

At the meeting Detective Sergeant Tim McDonough, Youth Services Detective Tom Fournier and Police Chief Michael Kent gave a presentation on school protocols and answered questions on how they are working with the Burlington Public Schools to assure student safety.

McDonough explained that the police use the school facilities to train officers and get them familiar with the different buildings. He said after hours, officers do drills at night and use their probes, a card which allows an officer to access any school in town.  

During the day officers are constantly near school facilities in case something should arise. Fournier said that during the day he is at the high school and School Resource Officer Keith Sheppard is at the middle school.

Police acknowledged that students are safer in their classrooms, because they can be locked down. School Committee member Kristin Russo raised concerned about students being in an open area within the school such as the lunchroom cafeteria.

“The Cafeteria is one of our toughest scenarios,” Fournier said. “We have practiced a lockdown a few years ago in the café, but it was related to something else that happened.”

Detective Fournier assured the School Committee that if an incident were to happen in the cafeteria police would attempt to respond as quickly as possible but acknowledged it is more difficult scenario.

“If anything did happen in the cafeteria, I would get there quickly and get the alert system activated and get other patrol officers there very quickly.” Fournier explained. “There is no easy area for that scenario, other than confronting an armed person. We need to practice this again.”  

If there is a situation like this one that happens in the Burlington Schools, the police will be notified through the school’s alert system then it goes directly to the police station and their radios. Whoever is on duty nearby will respond to the call and will ask for assistance if needed.

During the school shooting in Parkland, Florida the Perpetrator purposely pulled the fire alarm to lure students out of their classrooms, believing it was an actual fire. Someone at the School Committee meeting asked if police are looking into this type of scenario.

“Fire alarms have been used in Florida and other school shootings,” Fournier said. “The shooter or shooters have realized that the school is going into lockdown, and allows them to create a situation where people would be in the hallway during a fire alarm incident.”

If the shooter is able to pull the fire alarm, police will try to lower the actual noise of the alarm itself. By doing this, they can get in contact with students and teachers through the intercom, explaining that the shooter is attempting to get people out of the rooms and there is no actual fire happening.

Finally, School Committee members are very appreciative that they have been working with the Burlington Police Department very closely and are looking for new ways and protocols for the future. “That’s an understatement, I’ve been impressed and always felt confident we have a great partnership with the Burlington Police Department.” Committee Member Stephen Nelson said.

“You guys do a great job and we appreciate of having you.” Committee Chairman Thomas F. Murphy said.

“Together, we are doing the best we can, and hopefully there won’t be a crisis like this one.” School Committee member Martha Simons said.

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