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Boston is weathering a spate of violent incidents at public schools after the city decided to get rid of police officers in schools last fall.
The police officers who had protected Boston’s public schools for decades were replaced with school safety specialists — who lacked arrest powers — when students returned to the classroom last September after a year of remote learning during the pandemic.
Over this academic year, the city’s schools have seen a string of violent attacks, prompting a discussion about public safety and the decision to forego having police officers stationed on campus during school hours.
In early November, a 16-year-old female student was arrested for knocking out her principal, a woman over 60, at the Dr. William W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School. The attack caused serious injuries to the principal, and the student was charged with multiple assault counts, including assault causing serious bodily injury.
Just this month, a teacher and student were shot in the parking lot of TechBoston Academy. The victims, a 31-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy, suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to hospitals.
More than a week later, two teenage males, a 17 year old and a 16 year old, were arrested in connection with the shooting.
“Obviously, this is a very concerning and disturbing set of circumstances,” Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long said of the incident. “Schools are supposed to be a safe haven for our students and our teachers, not a place where they’re subjected to brazen and random acts of violence.”
“We will make sure that this is an incident that we quickly address, and make sure that our school communities have what they need to process and heal,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said.
Massachusetts’ 2020 police reform bill was the turning point that prompted Boston’s public schools to stop hiring police officers to be on site during school hours.
The police reform law, passed in response to the summer’s racial justice protests, would have required school police to receive hundreds of hours of additional training in order to stay on campus. Most schools opted to go without police and hire school safety specialists without handcuffs or arrest powers instead.
Police responded to a total of 177 incidents at 62 schools in Boston between the beginning of the school year and Thanksgiving break, according to 911 call data from Boston Public Schools obtained by The Boston Globe. More than a quarter of those calls were for incidents involving fighting or assault.
The emergency incidents are only the most serious disruptions schools have to handle. From September through November, teachers, deans, and school safety specialists reported more than 4,000 other incidents, which can be more minor transgressions like trespassing or disrupting class, the outlet reported.
Some city schools have had a particularly tough time this year. At one school, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, 18 out of 52 incidents requiring a 911 response involved police, according to the Globe.
Another concern is the emotional effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on students and how that could tie into students acting out violently.