, Newburyport, MA


May 7, 2013

Better response needed for school lockdowns


What happened next developed like a train leaving its station with a full head of steam and a schedule to keep. As per protocol, the school was searched top to bottom, and students were shuffled to “safe” areas of the building. It was a tremendous disruption to the school day.

According to the student’s lawyer, further complicating the situation was the fact that the student’s regular classroom teacher was out, and a substitute was in charge. The lawyer argued that if the regular teacher had been in the room, there would have been a better understanding of the student and the situation would have played out in a less confrontational way.

Those are hindsights, of course. But they are worth considering.

The classrooms of today are a different environment than a generation ago. We have seen an increase in the number of children diagnosed with a variety of special needs, many of them requiring special assistance to manage behaviors. Sometimes, situations occur that can be wildly misinterpreted, if the proper context is missing.

We agree with the boy’s father, who said at his son’s arraignment last week that there should be better training in place to handle a situation involving a special needs student. This is something that both the schools and the police will need to coordinate.

The Pentucket student is due in court today. We hope that the charges will be dropped, and that there will be a reconciliation that allows for a normal transition as he prepares to graduate next month.

We also feel this is a situation that other schools can learn from, and figure out ways to diffuse or avoid.

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