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Call for National Guard to help with high school violence stirs controversy in Mass.

As incidents of student violence increase at Brockton High School, some school committee members are asking for additional help monitoring students.
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/ Source: NBC Boston

Four school committee members in Brockton are requesting for the Massachusetts National Guard to assist in monitoring high school students following an increase in violence on campus.

In a letter sent Thursday to Mayor Robert Sullivan, the committee members write, “Recent events at Brockton High School have prompted us to seek immediate assistance to prevent a potential tragedy.”

The authors cite a “disturbing increase” in incidents related to violence, security concerns and substance abuse:

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, we are formally requesting that you reach out to Governor Healey and request the deployment of the National Guard to assist in restoring order, ensuring the safety of all individuals on the school premises, and implementing measures to address the root causes of the issues we are facing.

We understand the gravity of this request and the importance of collaboration between local and state authorities. 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.

A representative for Gov. Maura Healey’s office responded to questions about the proposal Sunday night to NBC Boston, stating: “Our administration is committed to ensuring that schools are safe and supportive environments for students, educators and staff. We are aware of concerns raised about Brockton High School and are in touch with local officials.”

Addressing the violence has been an ongoing discussion in the city for months.

Cellphone video shared with NBC Boston Friday shows students fighting on a stairwell in Brockton High School, the latest example of what staff members have said is an increasingly toxic environment.

Over the last few weeks, there have been several school committee meetings, with teachers saying there is a safety risk for staff and students.

One parent said Friday that school administrators that need to make immediate changes.

Not everyone agreed Sunday night with the idea of National Guard assistance.

“That isn’t the role of the National Guard, and uniformed soldiers in a school present a terrible image,” said Councilor at Large Winthrop Farwell, Jr.

“We don’t consistently enforce class cuts, students are roaming hallways, vaping and smoking takes place. Use of cell phones is rampant and students run to film fights which occur in a building,” said Farwell. “This is unacceptable. We must support our teachers when they file reports of misconduct.”

“We have assaults on staff and students with minimal consequences. School absenteeism and violations of the current code of conduct need to be uniformly and consistently addressed with mandatory parental conferences,” Farwell went on to say. “Parents need to be involved in solving current issues.”

Farwell said that the four committee members are suggesting the Guard should be called in at a time when the school committee needs to listen to teaching staff, support them and take proper action based on staff reports and recommendations.