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School committee members call for National Guard intervention at Brockton High School

(Photo courtesy of Business Khabar) “Brockton High School entrance sign.”

Steven O’Hara
Connector Editor

On February 15, 2024, four members of the Brockton School Committee called for military intervention at Brockton High School. In a letter sent to Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan, the members urged Sullivan to request that Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey deploy the National Guard. As an explanation regarding the purpose for the call to action, the letter said, “Over the past few months, our high school has experienced a disturbing increase in incidents related to violence, security concerns, and substance abuse. 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.”  

The presence of the National Guard is not often seen at High Schools. However, these school committee members are adamant in their efforts to rectify the current situation at Brockton High School. “The National Guard’s expertise in crisis management and community support can offer a vital temporary intervention, allowing for a comprehensive, long-term solution to be developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders,” the letter said. Mayor Sullivan has come out in opposition to military intervention at Brockton High School and believes the Brockton police department is adequately handling the situation.   

While military intervention is not a common occurrence in high schools, law enforcement presence has become a norm. Dr. Melissa Morabito, professor and Associate Chair of the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, gave a bigger insight into police presence in schools by saying, “For most communities there’s a few different ways police can be in schools. They either have a school resource officer, and in some places, it’s a separate agency and in other places, it’s the local Police Department [that] hires the police officer and then puts them in the school.”  

The debate surrounding police presence in schools, which has been reignited in the call for military presence at Brockton High School, calls into concern the necessity of their presence. Before the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018, school resource officers were required to be present in Massachusetts schools. However, Dr. Morabito said that since the reform bill, school districts now have a choice as to whether police officers can be present in schools. “What’s more common is for schools to call 911, so regardless of school resource officers we see a lot of that of teachers and other school staff who will call 911 looking for assistance in cases of violence,” said Dr. Morabito.   

How the National Guard intervention would play out at Brockton High has not been realized, as the confirmation of their deployment has not been released. But with the normative presence of law enforcement in schools, as things are, the addition of military forces could create a completely different learning environment. Many students and people in general have contrasting relationships with law enforcement which can impact their quality of learning, so the environment created by the military in schools should be considered to this effect. “Some people are absolutely afraid when they see the police. I would argue that more people are comforted by them, especially when you’re looking at younger children,” said Dr. Morabito.  

In the letter addressed to Mayor Sullivan, a request for an expedited meeting to discuss the possibility of National Guard deployment was made. No official school committee meeting has been set to discuss the said plan, and with the severity of the situation at Brockton High School, it is unclear what will be the outcome of the urgency. However, many things need to be addressed in order to create a better and safer learning environment for both the teachers and students at Brockton High School.  

“There’s been a huge amount of unmet need for mental health services following the COVID-19 pandemic, which I would argue we’re still in and there has not been enough resources. I think schools are struggling to get kids what they need…I hope that the focus is not just on violence prevention from a criminal justice or military sense, but also on what children need,” said Dr. Morabito.   

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