Haverhill Continues to Cover-Up Timeline of Alleged High School Gun Incident

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta. (WHAV News file photograph.)

City officials continue to refuse to release the exact time a 16-year-old summer school student was first spotted with an alleged gun July 29.

Information about the time staff observed what was believed to be a gun is a critical piece of determining whether Haverhill Public Schools properly responded to the threat at Haverhill High School. Unconfirmed reports suggest the student was under suspicion for more than an hour before Haverhill Police were notified. The student was arrested almost a mile away, prompting more questions about times.

The City of Haverhill yesterday only partially responded to WHAV’s extensive public records requests, but promised to consider providing more information within 25 days. A majority of WHAV’s July 30 request centered on the cloudy timeline of events.

As part of its own investigation into the incident, the radio station sent requests to Haverhill Public Schools, Haverhill Police Department and Mayor James J. Fiorentini. Yesterday’s initial response came from Special Counsel Michelle E. Randazzo. While she notes the state’s public records law doesn’t require answering questions, she wrote, “Nonetheless, the city recognizes that both the specific incident that is the subject of your request as well as the issue of school security generally, are topics of public interest and, in fact, have recently been discussed by the City Council…”

School Policy Requires Calling 911

Contrary to what happened that day, the school department’s Emergency Procedure Manual’s Crisis Checklist tells staff to “Call 911.” The policy, dated January 2013, goes on to say, “All adults in the building are empowered to call 911 in an emergency without anyone’s permission.” The rule also calls for employing a “lockdown, hold in place (or) shelter in place” to “secure everyone’s safety.” Superintendent Margaret Marotta told city councilors Aug. 6 that policy wasn’t followed.

“I believe in this situation the SRO (school resource officer) was contacted rather than 911 being called because things happened so quickly and simultaneously that the student was apprehended almost as quickly as things were happening in real time,” Marotta told members.

A schools’ information sheet also advises “the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) strategy can be used in any order.” Marotta told councilors she initially ordered a lockdown at the high school after receiving a telephone call from Principal Glenn Burns. She said she continued to talk with Burns as she drove from City Hall to the high school. While en route, she added, Burns reported the student was already in police custody and she changed the order to a “controlled release” of pupils.

The city also refused to release the list of charges against the student even though they have since been made public by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s office. The juvenile was initially arraigned in Lawrence Juvenile Court for carrying a firearm without a license, trespassing, carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds and possession of a class E drug. Later, he was arraigned on four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of alleged assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and attempt to commit a crime on another incident in two other, unrelated cases.

Despite several searches, a gun was not found.

It is also unclear whether Marotta has reviewed the “response sequence” with local police and fire officials, as required. However, Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro accepted an invitation to address the School Committee last Sept. 13 after being asked by School Committee members Scott W. Wood Jr. and Richard J. Rosa. Rosa adds he believes a meeting took place between Marotta prior to the session.

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