Gov. Patrick Forms Task Force On School Safety

REVERE, Mass. — While another school shooting shook a community this week — this one in Roswell, N.M. — Massachusetts is forming a task force to improve school safety.

The 20-member committee will lay out guidelines and best practices by this summer for school districts across the state.

The task force, established by Gov. Deval Patrick through an executive order Thursday morning, is made up of representatives from throughout state and local governments.

They include officials from the departments of education, public safety, and health and human services, and will look at what school districts are already doing in order to issue guidelines — not mandates — to districts around Massachusetts.

“In our commonwealth we range from sophisticated cities to rural villages,” the governor said. “Not all circumstances, and indeed not all resources, are uniform.”

Gov. Deval Patrick signs an executive order creating a school safety task force, in Revere on Thursday. (Jack Lepiarz/WBUR)

Gov. Deval Patrick signs an executive order creating a school safety task force, in Revere on Thursday. (Jack Lepiarz/WBUR)

Patrick made the announcement at Whelan Elementary School here in Revere and then spoke with parents.

They included Debra Digiulio, who asked him if schools should be doing more.

“I just said to him, ‘Listen, you came in today, I came in today, they asked for an ID. Is that enough?’ ” she said.

DiGiulio, who has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school, said she doesn’t want to wait until the summer to see more security.

“The kids are coming in every day, and they’re coming in with backpacks, and I’m afraid of what’s in the backpacks,” she said, calling for metal detectors in all schools. “I think backpacks need to be screened. That’s my major concern.”

Others, like Josh Vadala, the Whelan school’s assistant principal, are not so sure.

“That’s tough,” he said. “It still needs to be a school. It still needs to be a welcoming environment. We’re a school, our primary function is to educate students, but in the forefront of our minds every day is keeping kids safe.”

It’s not clear what funding could go along with this proposal, though education officials have said the state may develop a grant program for schools to implement some security changes.

Patrick said with recent school shootings across the country, Massachusetts residents cannot simply hope it won’t happen here.

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