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Lynn school officials blame vandalism break-in on faulty alarm system

LYNN — School officials say a flaw in the district’s alarm system was to blame for not detecting a group of juveniles who broke into Lynn English High School twice over two consecutive days this past summer and caused widespread vandalism in the building.

Four juveniles broke into Lynn English High School during a July weekend and caused widespread damage inside the school, which resulted in the arrest of a 13-year-old boy. The suspects included three other children under the age of 12 and as young as 9.

School Committee member John Ford said he was concerned about why security didn’t respond to the break-in on either Saturday or Sunday.

A coach discovered the vandalism on the second day and notified authorities after the kids were seen in the building.

“It’s a busy place in the summertime. All the athletics are playing over on that field,” said School Committee member Brian Castellanos. “A two-day experience was a long time for that to happen, for them to go in and do that.”

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said the alarm system was at fault, due to human error, as it wasn’t set properly. He said the district uses Instant Alarm, and the alarm automatically goes on at midnight and disarms at 6 a.m. from Monday to Friday, unless it’s manually reset.

On the weekends, he said, the system is armed all the time unless someone, such as an administrator or athletic director, uses their school identification to disarm it on one of the off-duty, off-hours doors.

Tutwiler said the problem at Lynn English over the summer was the alarm was incorrectly programmed to activate at midnight and deactivate at 6 a.m. seven days a week, which allowed the juveniles to enter the building undetected after 6 a.m. on the weekend.

He said the group entered through a window they broke in the back of the building and, with the alarm incorrectly set, the city’s Inspectional Services Department and Lynn Police were not notified on either day. A broken window wouldn’t have set off the alarm, because only the doors are alarmed, but the juveniles’ movement inside the building would have.

In response, Tutwiler said Instant Alarm checked Lynn English and the other schools in the district to make sure the alarm was set properly.

Three of the children involved attend the Lynn Public Schools and are “known to” school administrators from past issues, according to Tutwiler, who said there was a response from the district following the students’ vandalism despite it occurring during the summer, but didn’t elaborate.

“With any student — never mind these students — that sort of behavior during those hours reflects deeper issues and our effort is really designed around trying to address those issues and frankly, given what I know about those students at their schools, that effort has been ongoing,” Tutwiler said.

The 13-year-old was arrested and charged with daytime breaking and entering and wanton destruction of property. State law protects juveniles under the age of 12 from being charged with a crime — new legislation raised the minimum age a juvenile could be charged from 7 to 12.

The vandalism the juveniles committed at Lynn English included damaging televisions, driving a waxing machine through a wall into the kitchen area, pornographic drawings, classroom damage, spray painting, and throwing things around. There was damage on more than one floor of the building, according to police and school officials.

The vandalism was the second major security concern in three months at Lynn English High School this year. Last May, parents were surprised to learn about a school shooting threat at Lynn English three weeks after it was made.

In a Facebook video, a parent detailed his frustrations with the school’s principal, Thomas Strangie, for the late notification and showed how he was able to walk into Lynn English through an unlocked door, which school officials later said was broken.

School Committee member Jared Nicholson said there have been a lot of questions related to Lynn English because of the two incidents, and questioned whether the doors had been fixed.

“My understanding is all of those doors have been repaired and typically, when there’s an issue that comes up at the school that relates to security — doors, windows — the response may not be immediate, but it’s much quicker,” Tutwiler said.

 

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