Police respond to disturbance at Greenfield High School, shelter-in-place issued

  • Greenfield High School. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/10/2021 5:15:05 PM

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Police officers responded Wednesday afternoon to a report of a disturbance at Greenfield High School that led to a shelter-in-place while the situation was resolved.

“There was a disruption,” said Superintendent Christine DeBarge. “School staff were able to handle the situation, but we always appreciate the Greenfield Police Department’s response and willingness to help out.”

According to DeBarge, contrary to initial reports, there was no fight and it didn’t involve as large of a group — about 20 individuals — as was initially reported to police.

Since the start of the school year, the Police Department has responded at least 14 times to the high school for reports of unruly students, teens smoking on the bleachers, fights and verbal altercations, according to Deputy Police Chief William Gordon.

“I think there’s been an uptick of calls, but that very well could be because we don’t have a school resource officer there that would handle the smaller calls,” he said. “There’s an uptick for requests for assistance.”

The district hasn’t had a school resource officer since the position was cut from the budget last year.

Gordon said he was only aware of one other shelter-in-place at the high school, as that information isn’t always relayed to police, but DeBarge said they have been used with more frequency this year.

She emphasized that shelter-in-place is a standard safety and security protocol that has been used by schools for years in situations where staff and students need to be out of hallways so a situation can be responded to, whether that’s to address a student conflict, or an individual’s physical or mental health needs, for example.

“The fact we’ve been out of school for such a period of time and not practicing those things on a routine basis has made (sheltering-in-place decisions) feel more alarming than they need to be,” she said. “At this time, with students back and dealing with the effects of trauma, I am not surprised we are utilizing that maybe more frequently than we might have in the past.”

Previously, DeBarge said students have been “dealing outwardly” with the symptoms of trauma — a lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is compounded with day-to-day struggles students face such as poverty, illness, death or substance use in their families.

“We have students who are speaking about their feelings in a way that suggests they’re having anxiety issues,” she said. “We have students that are showing outwardly hostile and aggressive behaviors, and we have students that are reported to have been very engaged prior and are much more quiet now.”

The issue was expected to be brought up at a School Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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