News, Police/Fire

Threat shuts down four Lynn schools

The new Lynn superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. (File Photo | Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Four Lynn Public Schools were shut down for more than an hour after threats made by a parent on Tuesday afternoon.

Lynn Police are seeking an arrest warrant for a 51-year-old man after he made what school officials are classifying as a “concerning comment” to a social worker, which was in turn reported to police. It was not immediately clear what the charges would be.

The man’s child attends Lynn Public Schools and police said part of the comments stemmed from a parent who was unhappy with some of the decisions made within the schools.

As a result, four Lynn schools — Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Lynn Classical High School, Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School and Cobbet Elementary School — were placed into a “secure and hold” for more than an hour, which is when students don’t leave the building and no one comes in until police give the all clear, according to Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.

The decision to secure the schools, Tutwiler said, was made out of “an abundance of caution.” Although he declined comment on the nature of the parent’s remark, he characterized it as a nonspecific one and said the language was what was concerning.

Whether to enter into a secure and hold or lockdown is handled on a case by case basis where credibility is evaluated, Tutwiler said, regarding the district’s protocol. In this case, school officials wanted to make sure there was a police presence at the schools during dismissal. The hold was lifted shortly before 3 p.m.

“Student safety is our foremost priority and we would rather overreact than underreact on issues around safety,” Tutwiler said. “This is a situation where there was familiarity, so we just thought it was a wise thing to do.”

School Committee members said they believed placing the schools in a secure and hold was an appropriate response.

“I have not been fully informed on the situation, but I would rather our students and faculty be inconvenienced for a period of time than have something horrible happen at any of our schools,” said School Committee member Michael Satterwhite. “Student safety is just as important as student achievement in my eyes.”

School Committee member John Ford said he thought the secure and hold was the right decision, rather than putting the students at risk. He’d put safety over fear — it may have been a traumatic experience for students — but school officials have to err on the side of caution.

“I think it was the right thing to do in the timeframe that we’re living in where there’s so much concern and so many things happen,” Ford said.

Anytime something like this happens, it’s valid to evaluate protocols, according to School Committee member Jared Nicholson, to make sure officials are happy with the ones in place. It was important that parents were notified of the incident by a follow-up phone call, he said.

“I’m glad everyone’s safe and I appreciate the work of everyone who works to keep our kids safe,” Nicholson said.

 

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