A state senator from Boston on Tuesday called on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to place a renewed focus in the new year on school safety and to support the city's push to install more metal detectors at schools.
A day after a stabbing at Medford High School and as Boston Public Schools contends with a series of violent events — including a September stabbing and an October shooting — Sen. Nick Collins told the board that he understands there is serious debate around the role of police officers in schools, but said that there should be no debate among state education officials about "the use of non-invasive technology to guarantee the baseline of safety in schools."
"As we know, young people can't advance their learning goals and achievement if you can't feel safe at school. And if you can't feel safe in school, what's the point? These concerns are not based on hyperbole. My office receives complaints weekly from families concerned about their children's safety, largely incidents that don't make the papers. And while the pandemic has created much anxiety among students, teachers, and staff within our school learning environments, it is time to intervene with increased investment, infrastructure and programming," Collins said.
Collins, a BPS graduate, said the system estimates that metal detector installation will cost $17.5 million and he asked that the Board of Education provide "increased support for appropriate intervention to ensure that we can guarantee a baseline of safety in our schools."
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He added, "As an example with how normal the use of this kind of technology is, think about what would happen if you tried to walk out of a public library with a paperback book without checking it out. Alarms go off, place shuts down, you get stopped ... Yet you can walk into a public school, without detection, with a gun or a knife. That has to change."
School safety was not on the board's agenda Tuesday, but it has been on the executive branch's agenda recently. In August, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed almost $40 million in a supplemental budget for matching grants for security and communications upgrades in K-12 schools and public higher education campuses, grants for school districts to pilot an anonymous threat reporting tip line, the creation of a "comprehensive school safety website," support for emergency response training for school officials, and funds for a statewide "Say Something" public awareness campaign.
By the time the Legislature rewrote and passed its own version of that supplemental budget in early November, lawmakers had stripped the roughly $40 million school safety outlay from it and did not put forward their own safety funding proposal.