Officials Seek Federal Help for Safer Schools

December 20, 2012
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City and school officials have called upon the federal government to help them make schools safer in Revere and across the country, with Mayor Dan Rizzo suggesting that members of the National Guard conduct their required service at school entrances.

After the unspeakable events that transpired last Friday morning in Newtown, CT, the country was sent into a state of despair. Yet, at the same time, local leaders and parents of school-aged children across the country also focused in on what could be done to prevent such a tragedy in their own communities.

Revere was no different.

“On a personal level, I happen to believe that we should explore placing security personnel in each and every school,” Rizzo wrote in an op-ed to the Journal. “Whether covered by local law enforcement or some other branch of security such as the Massachusetts National Guard or a newly created organization similar to Sky Marshals used by U.S. based airlines, some sort of protection is warranted. With respect to the Guard, maybe existing troops looking to serve their mandatory two weeks of active duty go to a school building in place of being assigned to an army base or other facility.”

This week, Superintendent Paul Dakin, Mayor Rizzo and Police Chief Joe Cafarelli focused in on the existing safety protocols for the Revere Schools.

Already, Revere is one of the leaders in training students, school staff, police and fire units for a potential school attack. In fact, back in 2005, current Police Chief Cafarelli led the Department’s SWAT team on a rare Live Shooter Drill during school hours with students present.

This week, Cafarelli said he has paused for review, but feels the schools in Revere are very well prepared.

“I spent all day Monday with the School Department making sure we’re all on the same sheet of music and reflecting on what happened in Connecticut,” he said. “The School Department is very receptive. I’ve said this before, our schools are some of the safest in the state, if not the country. We’re regularly training in the schools. We will be drilling in there this week, which was already planned before the events of last Friday took place. School safety is nothing new to us. The School Department is receptive and we’re tightening up existing plans right now.”

Cafarelli said there are plans in place to again conduct another Live Shooter Drill at one of the schools in the district this year.

Beyond that, all this week, Revere Police showed an increased presence around all of the city’s schools and even had some officers walking the halls of some schools.

School Superintendent Paul Dakin said the schools in Revere have had heightened security every since the Columbine shooting in Colorado many years ago. For schools, that was the event that changed everything and caused school buildings to drastically change security plans – security plans that were actually in place and followed at Newtown, CT last week.

Dakin said they have two School Resource (Police) Officers assigned to the schools, and there are school security personnel at every entrance to every school.

However, he said it is probably time to tighten things up and re-think some older ideas.

“People need to feel a sense of heightened awareness and security at the schools,” said Dakin. “That’s what we have to do now. We clearly have to ramp things up – like buzzing people in, not opening the door for people and asking for picture IDs. Again, though, we can’t lose focus on how rare these events are. This is a reminder of how fragile life is.”

At the same time, Dakin also indicated the schools and local officials have done about as much as possible. He said the only way to step it up is through federal intervention.

“In Revere we have been working hard for a number of years to increase security. We have over 150 cameras both inside and outside of the schools,” he wrote in an op-ed to the Journal. “But do these measures stand to stop the type of assault that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown? I don’t think so.

“What is needed is State and Federal intervention,” he wrote. “Our Community Police team is essential to the work we do. Without legislative assistance, even with our locked doors, cameras, and people in the halls, we do not stand a chance to defend ourselves from deranged individuals with heavy firepower. We can do all we can to protect children in schools, but society needs to fix the assault on us that comes to us from outside of the schools.”

Mayor Rizzo also made a plea for revising the country’s gun laws.

“As a coalition member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I am all the more perplexed as to why more isn’t being done to revise our gun laws,” he wrote. “Like many of you, I sat in my living room trying to imagine the tremendous grief and sadness that the city of Newtown, Connecticut will experience over the next many days, weeks, and months. At one point, as I watched the unfolding of this horrific event, this wave of anxiety came over me as I imagined what the city of Revere would be like if we were to be thrust into such a tragic event like took place in Newtown. It seems incomprehensible.”

Dakin said he had been inundated with e-mails, texts and calls from parents over last weekend and even on Monday morning. While many were anxious, he said most people did bring their kids to school as usual.

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Current Police Chief Joe Cafarelli led the Revere Police SWAT team in a Live Shooter Drill at Revere High School during the 2005 school year. The rare, live drill, with students in place during school hours practiced for exactly what happened in Newtown last Friday. Cafarelli said the police will likely conduct another similar drill later this year. He said such drills have gone a long way to help prepare all of Revere’s first responders for potential tragedy.

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Revere Police SWAT members burst into a classroom during the Live Shooter Drill at Revere High School in 2005. The drill will likely be repeated this year.

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