During a roundtable discussion at a Framingham middle school on Tuesday, officials from Gov. Charlie Baker to state education commissioner Jeffrey Riley discussed the many tactics officials are trying out to prevent the next school shooting from taking place in Massachusetts.
Officials announced Tuesday that $7.3 million in state grants had been given to 143 schools for safety upgrades. Baker said there’s the possibility of $15 million more, subject to approval in the state House. Some of that money went to Framingham for the shooting-spotter technology, but the grants are also being used to fund programs to help students — for efforts like suicide prevention, for example, or programs like “Start With Hello!” to reduce social isolation.
In opening remarks at the roundtable, held at Walsh Middle School, Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer pointed out that talking about school safety is a sad but necessary task.
“Safety is of critical importance,” said Spicer, a former Framingham teacher.
Officials also emphasized that school safety looks different across cities and towns. Holliston Superintendent Bradford Jackson said that his district used state grant money to buy security cameras.
Framingham Schools Health and Wellness Director Judith Styer outlined several social programs the district is taking to prevent violence. The district is putting together a “safety risk team” to identify students who might pose a threat, and provide them with help. Another program, Styer said, teaches young people how to report students who make threats.
Last week, two Framingham High School students were spotted with a weapon on campus. No one was hurt, but in an email, Principal Carolyn Banach reminded parents that students can help in such situations.
“We take all matters of school safety seriously and remind everyone that it is important to say something, if you see something,” she wrote.
Massachusetts has never seen a school shooting on the scale of Sandy Hook or Parkland. The most recent occurred in 2016, when two men in their 20s shot and killed a 17-year-old outside Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester during a fire drill.
Eugene Penrod, Framingham’s director of safety and security, said during the discussion that the high school’s shot-spotter system is a valuable piece of security, able to shave seconds or minutes off response times. But he hopes that other prevention programs work faster.
“I hope we never use [the shot-spotter]. I hope we test it once a year and that’s it,” he said.
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