Haverhill Safety Committee Mandates 911 Calls During Threats, Recommends Security Steps

Those attending the Safety Subcommittee meeting were, from left, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr., Deputy Police Chief Anthony Haugh, Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro, Chairman Scott W. Wood Jr., Superintendent Margaret Marotta and School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan. Also attending was School Committee member Richard J. Rosa. (WHAV News photograph.)

A school Safety Subcommittee is looking to beef up security at all Haverhill public schools, mandating staff first call 911 during an emergency, police officers stay at work during summer events and a security director be named.

These recommendations, among others, came during a public session following a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning of the Haverhill School Committee’s safety group. Members met with Haverhill Police to discuss issues related to last week’s report of a teenager with a gun at Haverhill High School.

Subcommittee Chairman Scott W. Wood Jr. said he and School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan agreed staff must be informed or reminded to call 911 before taking any other action during an emergency. Police officers at the schools, known as school resource officers, should work summers when classes are in session. Wood noted that although a school resource officer was called during last week’s incident, there were none officially on duty. There was also agreement, he said, on naming someone to serve as a security director. He explained the job wouldn’t necessarily be a new position, but a staff member taking on additional duties.

Police Chief Weighs In On Metal Detector Suggestion

Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro weighed in, recommending against installing metal detectors. Among the reasons, he said, is that the inevitable line of students waiting to pass through such detectors might place them at greater risk. In an email after the meeting, the chief told WHAV that while he defers to the wishes of the School Department, “I do not believe they are warranted or necessary for Haverhill schools at this time.”

Other ideas included distributing a smartphone app such as “See it, Say it, Send it,” which would allow students to send anonymous information about threats. App makers will be interviewed within the next two weeks. During the same period, the School Department will interview companies to undertake a full safety assessment of public schools. Noting he recommended such an assessment last year, Wood said none has ever been sought. “These weren’t prevalent 10 or 15 years ago and there are not a lot of companies that specialize in it,” he said.

Wood also said he wants to improve internal school communications, explaining he learned of the school threat from WHAV rather than from the School Department.

School Committee member Richard J. Rosa, who attended the meeting, credited DeNaro and Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh with offering a number of good suggestions. “Everyone is taking the matter seriously. Public safety has been on everybody’s radar for about a year.”

A week ago, Monday, a 16-year-old Haverhill High sophomore was arrested by Haverhill Police and charged with carrying a firearm without a license, trespassing, carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds and possession of a class E drug. As WHAV previously reported, the juvenile was one of several hundred at the Monument Street building July 29 when a security guard is said to have glimpsed him with the gun and he ran, allegedly tossing the weapon outside of campus. He was taken into custody about a mile away near the intersection of North Broadway and Broadway. Local and state police continued the search for a possible weapon Wednesday, but found nothing.

City councilors last night heard some details from Mayor James J. Fiorentini and school Superintendent Margaret Marotta. They learned there was no emergency 911 call from the school, there is not yet proof the item was actually a firearm and an initial school lockdown was quickly halted after the arrest. Key details omitted were a timeline of events, roles of school staff and whether emergency protocols were understood or followed.

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