Massachusetts high school asks for National Guard to combat violence

Committee members at a Massachusetts high school want the National Guard to help combat violence at the school, as a new “equity” law interferes with student discipline.

The committee of…

Committee members at a Massachusetts high school want the National Guard to help combat violence at the school, as a new “equity” law interferes with student discipline.

The committee of Brockton High School asked the mayor to put in the request, which would have to be made with Gov. Maura Healey.

“Recent events at Brockton High School have prompted us to seek immediate assistance to prevent a potential tragedy,” the letter from the committee to the mayor read. “The situation has reached a critical point, more recently we had an alarming 35 teachers absent, underscoring the severity of the challenges we are facing.” 

Brockton School Committee members Joyce Asack, Tony Rodrigues, Claudio Gomes and Ana Oliver noted “a disturbing increase in incidents related to violence, security concerns, and substance abuse.” 

They say the school has reached the breaking point.  

“We started (the letter) more than a couple of weeks ago and we held off on it,” Asack told local WCVB 5 News. “We got to the point where we’re seeking help.” 

But one committee member tried to paint the involvement of the Guard, were it to occur, as a positive. 

“This isn’t something that is negative. The National Guard does bring positivity,” Rodrigues told WCVB. “We’re looking for support with the National Guard to come in and act as substitute teachers (and) hall monitors to make sure that the high school is safe.” 

More than a dozen teachers and staff from other schools inside the Brockton Public Schools district (BPS) told legislators that the chaos was not just confined to the high school, however. 

“A lot of Brockton teachers are feeling hopeless,” said Athena Deltano, a special education teacher at Arnone Elementary School, who said she recently was bitten by a student not in her class, reported the Enterprise. “I think we’re all looking for a life raft right now.” 

Teachers and staff are complaining about a new law that limits schools’ ability to discipline students. Student suspensions are especially difficult under the new law, known as Chapter 222, which requires exploring alternative discipline methods before suspension can occur. 

The law supposedly improves “fairness” in student discipline. 

“There’s some instances where they’re telling us that teachers are told they’re not allowed to suspend kids, and if you do suspend a student, you still have to educate them,” Democratic state Sen. Michael Brady told local News 10 NBC Boston.  

Brady was one of four state legislative officials who met with approximately 15 school district employees to talk about the problems in the district. 

Other legislators included Rep. Gerard Cassidy, Rep. Michelle DuBois, Rep. Rita Mendes, each of whom represents parts of the school district.  

Reports in the district include students verbally and physically assaulting teachers, causing constant violent fights, swearing, vaping, smoking, stealing, breaking school property and leaving buildings freely, said The Enterprise.  

A Brockton citizen shared a video with News 10 of the latest fight at the high school on Thursday.

Students involved in the fight allegedly have extensive disciplinary histories, including previous suspensions, said News 10.  

Last spring three students were stabbed and five were arrested in an incident that started at the high school and ended at a local hospital, said local Boston News 25. 

The district is also facing significant financial trouble.  

Declining enrollment left the school district with an $18 million budget deficit, which necessitated the layoff of 435 teachers and staff last summer, said the Bay State Banner.  

Then at the start of the school year, the district announced another $14 million shortfall, leaving 169 vacant teaching positions, said the Banner.  

The teacher shortage is so bad, some students just sit in the cafeteria for multiple periods each day, said one district education official. 

Not all local officials are on board with bringing in the National Guard to save the day, however. 

“Our faithful teachers (at all levels of the system) have experienced violence, injury and disruptions for years. Now, suddenly, the Guard is the answer?” Brockton City Councilor Winthrop Farwell Jr said via a Facebook post which is no longer available. “Soldiers in military field uniforms aren’t the answer. Convene a committee of classroom teachers (as opposed to administrators) and let that committee provide their input and recommendations on how to deal with the escalating problems in schools.” 

There is no word yet from Gov. Healey that she will heed the requests to deploy the National Guard at Brockton High School.