North Shore Schools Double Down On Security After Nashville Shootings

PEABODY, MA — The latest school shooting in America that left three adults and three children dead in Nashville on Monday has North Shore school districts once again taking steps to assess their susceptibility to an attack, protocols in case of a security incident and ways to help prevent some of the feelings of isolation and depression that can lead to them.

Peabody Superintendent Josh Vadala said at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting that the city and district had received a $60,000 state “Stop the Violence” grant that will allow for a full, comprehensive school threat assessment at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School that can then be expanded to all schools in the city.

He said the information gained from the assessment will allow the schools to better partner with the Peabody Police Department in the event of a security threat coming from a student or the greater community.

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“There are a lot of partnerships here with the city, the police department and mental health professionals,” Vadala said. “So we are all working collaboratively.

“Given everything that’s been happening, especially with the tragedy that we just had in Nashville, it’s really important that we continue to keep this in the forefront. We’re being proactive in Peabody. It’s something we’ve been talking about all year long. (School Committee member John) Olimpio and the safety subcommittee have really done a lot of work in this area and we’ll continue to do that.”

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Salem Superintendent Steve Zrike said district leadership and police there meet regularly to go over security protocols and notification procedures in the case of an incident like the recent school shooter “swatting” threat hoaxes, and that the district has put in applications for safety grants where the funds will go toward installing vestibules at the front entrances of Salem High School and Collins Middle School.

“It’s always devastating to hear the news in a school like we did,” Zrike said. “It’s hard to believe we keep doing this over and over as a nation.”

He added that extensive security measures are one thing but that helping students and staff feel connected to the schools is also important to make everyone feel more included and lessen any sense of isolation.

“It still comes down to mental health supports that we have with our young people,” he said, “the relationships we have with our community and with our students. That’s something we’ve got to continue to get better at. When our young people feel like they’re connected — students, families and staff — that’s another way of strengthening the safety and the security of the people who are in the school each day.

“It is a difficult time. I know for educators and for our students there are many who are profoundly affected every time that something like this happens.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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