LYNN — In the wake of a school shooting threat at Lynn English High School, administration officials will conduct a review and update of school security protocols.
Police, parents and students were not notified of the threat until three weeks after it was found by school officials.
Parents were notified of the threat via a robocall by Lynn English principal Thomas Strangie last Tuesday, which explained that three weeks prior, someone had written on the bathroom wall about a school shooting that could take place at the high school last Friday, but the threat was found to be non-credible.
Speaking at Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said school shooting threats, like the one at Lynn English, happen all too often. On Thursday morning, she said four separate similar incidents occurred in Sudbury, Northborough, Southborough and Andover.
“Because of the event at English High, more schools and districts are reporting now and in the vast majority of cases, schools are not closed and a police presence is provided, which is exactly what we did,” Latham said. “What happens without fail in every situation is that we investigate thoroughly. We never, ever would endanger anyone in our schools.”
The district’s school safety and security binder was prepared in 2012, and in the wake of the threat at Lynn English, school officials have decided that it may be a good time to review protocol and procedures, and have some professional development, Latham said.
But she said “what we did at Lynn English is the protocol that we always follow.”
“I think a full review of the protocol makes a lot of sense, and we’ll all look forward to and appreciate the results of that,” said Jared Nicholson, a member of the School Committee.
Lynn Police Officer Oren Wright, the school safety and emergency planning liaison, said he believes the incident at Lynn English was dealt with as best it could be expected, citing a police presence at the school last Friday, the following Tuesday and the continued extra patrols at the school.
But School Committee member Michael Satterwhite pointed out that a parent was able to walk right into Lynn English through an unlocked door after the incident. Lamar Craig Harris, a parent of a Lynn English student, recorded himself as he walked into the school and expressed his frustrations with Strangie. He posted the video on Facebook, where it was widely shared among parents and others.
Latham said that door Harris used was broken and has been fixed.
School Committee vice-chair Donna Coppola said there wasn’t enough done to reassure the parents.
Lorraine Gately, a member of the School Committee, said she was not upset about how the situation was handled, but the delay is notification was a long time.
“I think, and the principal acknowledges, it could have been handled differently,” said Lynn Police Lt. Peter Holey. “In a perfect world, we would have known about it right away.”
Holey said these kinds of threats are terroristic — the prime weapon of terror is fear and whoever made the threat, when it got out, won.
“This has happened before in the Lynn Public Schools and has not been disseminated in the past because we did not believe those threats were credible and we did not want to create fear,” he said.
Wright said students would be less inclined to share information with police than school officials. Once he gets involved, he said, students’ miranda rights would kick in.
Bridgett Sanchez, a student at Lynn English High School and student representative on the School Committee, said the most important thing in the situation was the students.
There was a school shooting in Texas around the same time students learned of the threat at Lynn English, and a student was sent home after having a panic attack, Sanchez said. The incident was really scary, she said, getting emotional when she said she was thinking that she just wanted to be able to graduate.
“The point is we were not told and we were supposed to be told and the police officers were not told,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s important to focus on the fact that everybody wants the students to be safe. What happened, happened — he didn’t tell parents until three weeks after. Let’s move on from that. What can we do to just prevent this from happening again?”