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The State of Worcester’s Public School Safety

Friday, April 24, 2015

 

Robert Pezzella has been School Safety Liaison for Worcester Public Schools for 17 years.

Pezzella’s role with WPS requires him to work with the Worcester Police Department, school administration and local community groups to help ensure the safety of the students in Worcester schools.

Following Friday’s discovery of a gun at Burncoat High and the well-documented fights and bomb threats at North High, GoLocal Worcester wanted to go to the source and ask Pezzella what the state of student safety in Worcester really looked like.

Do you feel safety is a concern at Worcester’s high schools?

It’s not so much as its a concern, but more what has to happen and what needs to happen. We need to remind ourselves that on any given day, if we aren’t vigilant to report threats or potential acts of violence then it could end up being where it becomes a reality and we will only have ourselves to blame. We need to investigate these threats appropriately and make sure we provide the necessary response.

Do you believe the media is to blame for the attention on Worcester Public Schools?

We understand that the media has a responsibility to the public to report issues that affect people the live and reside in the community. We know that Worcester Public Schools is one of the institutions that require reporting on. School safety has been on the forefront of issues in districts throughout the country. There’s always a conversation regarding education and keeping students safe because of all the high profiled shootings that have gone on.

I think that when we have these type of situations, including what happened last Friday, we are always going to have to repeat what our policies and procedures are in our school district to keep our schools safe. So it’s understandable the media would be covering these types of issues.

Is there any plan for new procedures to be implemented at Burncoat High following Friday’s incident?

Not necessarily new procedures, but more so to enforce our current procedures that we have. Making sure that our students

Backpacks is a challenging issue for any principal in any school system. If you ask any principal, they’ll tell you that backpacks has always been a challenge. Our procedure and policy is that backpacks always need to be placed in lockers with the exception of mesh or transparent backpacks.

You have to understand that we don’t want to give any child the opportunity to carry any type of weapon or contraband in their backpack. We’ve always tried to enforce that the backpacks go in the locker at the beginning of the day, and taken out at the end of the day.

Fortunately, with this weapon at Burncoat they found, that was in a locker. Despite the severity and the fact that the student brought a handgun into school and had it in his locker, it was not carried on his personal possession where it could’ve caused instant harm if he ever went to grab the weapon.

Was there any intent on the students part?

The student had stated that he wouldn’t have hesitated to shooting a cop. I don’t have the particulars of the conversation, but there was no particular officer mentioned or particular part of the police department targeted.

Will you be re-enforcing safety procedures in all the high schools?

The school administration will most likely be reminding our principals to remain vigilant with all of our procedures that keep schools safe. In particular, any type of threat that is made by a student gets reported immediately to school administration, gets investigated promptly, making sure our doors in schools are always secure, and making sure students are dealt with due process.

Has there ever been a situation like this before?

We’ve had BB guns confiscated, and we’ve had some of our students at times trying to intimidate others and claim they have a handgun, but in fact it was a BB gun or a replica gun.

In my 17 years as School Public Safety Liaison for Worcester Public Schools, we have not confiscated a real weapon before on school property.

 

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