EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 11, 2013

School chief briefs committee on security

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Police officers have maintained a visible presence in city schools and on school bus routes since the Connecticut elementary school massacre Dec. 14 and the school bus BB gun shooting here that occurred a few days later, Superintendent James Scully told the School Committee last night.

Scully briefed the committee on a number of measures aimed at protecting school children in the wake of the incidents, including vigorously enforcing rules that everyone who enters a school building must show picture identification.

“All of our schools have controlled access,” he said. “Everyone who enters a school is captured by photograph or video before they are let in. At some schools the technology is outdated and we’re looking at modernizing, but when the system breaks down it’s usually because of human error, such as when a monitor admits someone that they shouldn’t have let in.”

The superintendent said no one is supposed to be admitted to any school until and unless their face can been seen by the person monitoring doors, and that identification is required to dismiss a student.

Scully said security technology at the high school was recently upgraded and that officials are looking to do the same at other buildings.

“There are security guards at the high school from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said, noting that up to 500 people enter the high school after hours on a typical evening.

Scully said the district began improving security before last month’s incidents.

“There are been 5,000 ideas for protecting students since the (Connecticut) tragedy,” he said. “I’ve heard everything up to and including arming crossing guards.”

Scully said there have been lock-down drills and security meetings at most city schools in recent weeks, and that the district is looking at replacing old doors at several schools with modern ones that include security features. Principals have been given state-of-the-art Walkie Talkies that allow them to talk to each other and administrators in an emergency, he said. The new devises were used for the first time during the BB gun shooting incident, he said.

There have been no arrests in the Dec. 20 BB gun shooting, in which two school buses were shot with what police said were BBs. They broke a passenger window on each bus and sprayed pieces of glass onto students.

The first incident happened on a Head Start bus about 11:30 a.m. in the area of Main and Marshland streets. John Cuneo, director of Community Action Inc., which runs the Head Start program in Haverhill, said about 35 children ages 3 and 4 were riding the Coppola company bus and that four or five children were seated close to the window that was shattered. When children arrived at the Fox Head Start Center, they were checked for pieces of glass.

The second incident happened about 2:30 p.m. the same day, when a school bus bringing home students from Haverhill High School was shot as it was traveling up Winter Street and passing by Hale Street. One student sustained a small cut to her knuckle when brushing off pieces of glass that fell onto her, police said.

“When I pulled up to the bus, police cruisers were coming from everywhere,” Scully said of the bus BB gun shooting.