There have been renewed discussions around school safety and security in Boston amongst local parents and leaders alike after a man was found sleeping Tuesday morning in a school in the city's Dorchester neighborhood.
A teacher walked into her classroom Tuesday morning and found a man, who was experiencing homelessness, walking out of a closet at The Richard J. Murphy K-8 school, according to a letter sent to the school community by Principal Courtney Sheppeck.
In a Boston Public Schools committee meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent Mary Skipper said the district's schools are assessing all the protocols for accessing buildings, reinforcing area managers to conduct walk throughs of school buildings and reminding the public that school buildings are community and athletic centers in some cases.
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After the teacher made the discovery, the man ran out of the building and the school called police.
According to a police report, an officer found a back door of the school ajar, and there was no sign of forced entry. Some cereal was missing from the classroom, but nothing else, the report said.
The man did not interact with any students and was not dangerous, the school's principal said. The whole ordeal happened about an hour before students arrived to their classrooms for the day.
Despite that, parents voiced their concern about school security.
"I've always been concerned because of the state we live in, the country we live in, but I always thought that they were safe going to that school," said a parent at the school who did not want to be identified. "I truly feel there is zero security at the school, if somebody was able to get in and remain in the school building after hours and overnight, there is no security there is no safety for our children."
Siere Godfrey, the mother of a sixth grader, said, "There should be some way of alarm systems going off to let them know that someone had broken in, not a teacher coming in. And God forbid something had happened to her."
Students and their parents said they were startled by the incident.
“It’s kind of weird," one boy said. "I didn’t think that someone could just get into the school that easily.”
“I think it’s a little disconcerting that someone was able to get into the school so easily and be there overnight," the boy's mom said. "You don’t know what would happen and who else could get in so hopefully their security is a little tighter.”
School District Responds
As Boston police continued their investigation, Boston Public Schools said in a statement that the district is working to find ways to stop this from happening in the future.
"Following an investigation into the matter, we will determine what additional safety measures can be taken at the school to ensure that this does not happen again," the district said in an email to NBC10 Boston.
Staff kept a watchful eye around the playground Wednesday as students played outside.
Local Leaders React
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu spoke Wednesday night about tightening security standards.
“As a mom with kids in the schools I want to make sure that every single one of our classrooms and our school buildings feels like a place that we’re all proud of,” Wu said. "We need to make sure that the larger issues that this brings up around access to doors, particularly side doors and back doors, that we’re working very quickly to have those security protocols all lined up.”
Boston City Councilor Erin Murphy said there have been increasing reports of people sleeping in the park next to the school, and there are a lot of families concerned about the issue.
“Parents are concerned that if the teacher hadn’t arrived at school early and it was, I guess lucky for students and the other staff that she was not harmed at all, but it was concerning for many people that the school was open somehow," Councilor Murphy said.
A proposal is being considered to have the building across the street from the school converted into supportive housing units for people who have experienced chronic homelessness.
Murphy echoed concerns from residents in the neighborhood regarding the proposal to convert the nearby hotel.
In a statement, the Pine Street Inn and the Community Builders responded, "There is no excuse for an unknown person being allowed to access a school building. We call on BPS leadership to address this matter at tonight’s meeting of the Boston School Committee and explain the actions being taken to keep the Murphy School safe."
"Unlike the individual discovered inside the school on Tuesday, future neighbors at 900 Morrissey will undergo multiple screenings and pass both criminal and sex offender background checks," the statement continued. "We remain committed to being good neighbors and partners with the community.”