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English High Parents Express Outrage At Hiring Of Dean Now Charged With Shooting Student04:01
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Boston Police Deputy Superintendent John M. Brown addresses parents at English High School, where they spoke about the shooting of a student and the arrest of a dean. Some were frustrated with the low turnout of other parents. (Simón Ríos/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Boston Police Deputy Superintendent John M. Brown addresses parents at English High School, where they spoke about the shooting of a student and the arrest of a dean. Some were frustrated with the low turnout of other parents. (Simón Ríos/WBUR)

A former dean at Boston's English High School, Shaun Harrison, faces new drug and gun charges after police executed a search warrant at his Dorchester home.

He's already been charged with the attempted murder of a student at the high school, who officials say was selling marijuana for Harrison.

A week after the shooting, parents of students gathered at a meeting Tuesday night called by school officials. Many asked why there were no red flags when Harrison was hired in January.

'Apparently, We've All Been Fooled'

For teachers and administrators at the oldest high school in America, to be an Eagle is a badge of honor. But the list of charges against Harrison — a dean of students who had worked just 21 days at English High School and allegedly shot a student — has left much of the school in shock.

"It makes us all embarrassed and ashamed," said Eytan Wurman, the visual and performing arts director at English, "because this person is not a representative of the English High School, he does not represent the Eagles, and he is not one of us."

Asked if he suspected anything of Harrison, Wurman shook his head.

"Apparently, we've all been fooled by the reputation of someone who everyone believed to be an honest and good man," he said.

That's a hard pill to swallow for parents sending their children to the school day in and day out. About 60 people gathered in the English High auditorium to hear from school officials and community leaders — many of them wondering how an alleged drug dealer made his way past the gates.

Adrienne Farrar-Brewer, an English student parent, said she's angry that Harrison wasn't ferreted out before coming on at English.

"I want to be guaranteed that the rest of the staff here is not involved in any criminal activity," she said. "I want to be guaranteed that my daughter is safe when she walks in this school, and I want to be guaranteed that the people that are supposed to be mentoring her are not complicit in the things that are going on here."

"... This person is not a representative of the English High School, he does not represent the Eagles, and he is not one of us."

Eytan Wurman, English High's visual and performing arts director

Interim Superintendent John McDonough told parents the schools ran a CORI check on Harrison, and considered two other incidents that had taken place over his years working in Boston schools. One was for pushing a student and the other for making inappropriate comments. But, he said, none of it was enough to cause suspicion.

"There simply were not the red flags, that we are all questioning: 'Why didn't we see something before?' " he said.

The outgoing superintendent announced a hotline to report suspicious activity, and said staffing protocols are under review.

But for Tomas Perez, of Dorchester, whose 16-year-old daughter goes to English, nothing concrete came out of the meeting.

"How was this person hired to work with children in schools? Schools aren't supermarkets — they're not stores. You have to really know the background of people who are going to work with children," Perez said in Spanish.

Some feel the school did the best it could in vetting Harrison, despite rumors of drug dealing at his Dorchester home and a subsequent police stakeout.

English High School mom Angela Gordon says she's more concerned about what she viewed as a low turnout at the meeting. The auditorium was less than half full.

"I'm very disappointed, but it's just a sign of the times," Gordon said. "Our children are being killed, and perhaps parents are busy, you know, it was a last-minute meeting. I can't fault them."

Despite the blow English has taken to its two-century reputation, some see the fall of Harrison as a simple case of a bad apple.

Student Bailee Brewer walked into the meeting with a baby in her arms and her parents at her side.

"The school's not all that bad, just put that on the record," she said. "The school's very good, and there are people and teachers that you can trust. Him, obviously, we couldn't."

The courts will decide whether that's the case. But for now, Harrison sits in jail on $250,000 bail, with another arraignment coming next week.

This segment aired on March 11, 2015.

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Simón Rios Twitter Reporter
Simón Rios is a reporter in WBUR's newsroom. He joined the station after two years at The Standard-Times in New Bedford, where he cut his teeth covering immigration and business.

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