25 Investigates: Boston Public Schools offers few details after school shooting ‘communication lag’

There are still questions surrounding how and when families and caregivers of students at Jeremiah Burke High School were notified about the shooting involving two students. As 25 Investigates first reported Tuesday night, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, Mary Skipper acknowledged a failure in that communication.

“When something happens, we have an immediate response that’s robust. And that’s what I think you saw,” Skipper said the day after the shooting during a news conference outside the school.

She praised the response of school staff and emergency responders after a student was shot, allegedly by another student at the school. But several parents who were at the scene Tuesday morning told Boston 25 News they had no idea what happened and if their child was safe.

25 Investigates has learned the first official communication to parents and families was an email sent school was dismissed Tuesday.

In it, Skipper said in part “We also must communicate with our families swiftly and efficiently; that did not happen as quickly as it should have today and we apologize. We are currently reviewing our internal systems to ensure such a lag in communication never occurs again.”

So, what should have happened? That’s a question anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh has been asking Boston Public Schools since the shooting occurred.

25 Investigates wanted to know the procedure to notify families in the event of a school shooting. Boston Public Schools would only refer us to the correspondence sent to Burke High parents.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has been short on specifics but agreed there’s room for improvement.

“We are always going to strive to do better and make sure that there’s instantaneous communication, once all the facts are known,” Wu said at a news conference.

25 Investigates reached out to two dozen other districts to find out what their plans are including Worcester, Lawrence, Brockton, Lowell, Framingham, Everett, Chelsea, Springfield, Quincy, Braintree, Salem, Medford, Malden, Spencer-East Brookfield Regional, Leominster, Plymouth, Fitchburg, Newton, Haverhill, Revere, Lynn and Cambridge.

A couple informed us of what’s called a MERP, or Medical Emergency Response Plans, required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District’s plan is to notify families with a description of the emergency, and how it was handled.

Chelsea Public Schools says their manual includes communications during an active shooting. And during an emergency, they can call, text, and email families.

The Malden School District says its’ procedure calls for contacting families with an automatic robocall and email in multiple languages as soon as it learns about any incidents.

And Braintree Public Schools say they communicate important info using a software system that distributes alerts instantaneously as necessary.

The districts we heard from said it was usually up to the district and not the affected school to notify impacted families.

Boston Public Schools would not say whether it was up to the district or the affected school to notify families and caregivers.

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