Members of the Billerica Community:
Last week, we found ourselves confronted with yet another senseless tragedy as we witnessed the horrific murder of innocent students and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We are heartbroken for the families and friends of the victims, and offer our condolences to the entire Uvalde community. We are also sickened that we live in a society where these shootings continue to occur, and call on our colleagues in federal and state government to take actions to eliminate this threat to our children.
The safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. And we are grateful to have such a strong partnership in Billerica between the schools and our local and regional public safety officials. For many years, the Billerica Public Schools, Billerica Police Department, Billerica Fire Department, and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office have been working together to ensure that we have safety and emergency response plans in place to respond to any crisis. These plans are reviewed and updated annually, and we are proud of the strong working relationship that we have among all of these agencies. This includes our community-based justice meetings where schools, public safety officials, and the District Attorney’s office share information to ensure that vulnerable children do not “fall through the cracks”.
As part of our emergency response preparedness, we have been conducting enhanced lockdown drills in all of our schools in the event of an active shooter. Since 2015, we have used the ALICE protocol, which stands for the non-sequential strategies of “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate”, and provides staff and students with a toolkit of options if ever faced with a life-threatening situation. For more information about ALICE, please see our memo from 2015 that introduced ALICE to the community at https://tinyurl.com/BPSALICE0415.
In addition to ALICE drills, both police and school officials implement a number of strategies to ensure the safety of everyone in our schools. These strategies include:
- Locked and secured school buildings, with limited points of access during the day, monitored by high technology video surveillance
- Use of Raptor Visitor Management System at the front desk of each school building to screen visitors and respond to emergencies
- Identification of school resources officers who receive specialized training, and act as liaisons between the school and police departments
- Billerica Police Department’s Adopt-A-School Program, where patrol officers are assigned to check on schools to proactively create a positive relationship between police and school officials, and to monitor for external security
- Partnership with the Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) for regional support, including the School Threat Assessment and Response System (STARS) program
- Middlesex District Attorney’s Office Community Based Justice (CBJ) program, where school officials, public safety officials, and the District Attorney’s office share information to ensure that vulnerable children do not “fall through the cracks”
- School-based crisis teams in each building, comprised of administrators, teachers, and mental health professionals, who are ready to proactively address students’ mental health needs, as well as react to support in times of crisis
- Police training of immediate response to active shooter situations that specifically recognize the need to neutralize threats as they occur, and training in Critical Casualty Care to provide rapid treatment to traumatic injuries
- Partnership between Billerica Police, Fire, and EMS in the area of Rescue Task Force responses
While all of these elements are important, it is also essential that we make sure that we continue to have warm and welcoming environments that value the worth and significance of each member of our school community. Our focus on the social and emotional health of our students has been a cornerstone of our work for many years – and when students have positive relationships with their peers, their schools, and their community, the likelihood of violent behavior drops dramatically.
Given recent events, we know that it is easy to be consumed by fear. But we also know that we cannot let this fear dominate our thinking to the point that it destroys what makes our schools such an important place of warmth, growth, and happiness in our children’s lives.
Every day that our students are in schools, there are hundreds and hundreds of adults that work to ensure their safety – teachers, nurses, social workers, paraprofessionals, custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, administrators, police officers, firefighters, and many, many more. We are proud of the work that they do every day, and know that your children are in good hands under their care.
Timothy G. Piwowar
Superintendent of Schools
John C. Curran
Roy W. Frost
Chief of Police