False Alarm on the Avenue


Students learn about proper safe mode procedure. (Source: Karen Dong (I))

On October 26, reports of an armed suspect caused Boston Latin School to go into Safe Mode, resulting in a variety of reactions throughout the school.

The Massachusetts College of Arts and Design and the Wentworth Institute of Technology were placed on lockdown at approximately 2:00 P.M. after a Wentworth student reported to the police that they had seen an armed individual on the MassArt campus, which prompted a police investigation of the scene. Later, it was discovered that the cause of the report was a student, equipped with a fake gun and posing in their Halloween costume.

Head of School Jason Gallagher made several announcements over the intercom, informing students to head into Safe Mode. Dismissal was delayed by almost thirty minutes, as the school could not exit Safe Mode without approval from the Boston Police Department.

While the situation initiated confusion, students cited feelings of worry after realizing that the Safe Mode was serious and not a drill. Tripp Rousmaniere (V) remarks, “I was a little nervous, but still, I was confident because I knew the procedure and what to do.”

During the lockdown, some teachers continued teaching while others allowed students to converse among themselves. There was no correspondence from administration informing teachers on how to react.

In Mr. John Walker’s mathematics class, some students heard rumors about an internal threat. One of these students, Vienne Marquis (V), explains, “We heard shouting outside of our door and that really freaked everybody out because we didn’t know what was going on.”

While other schools across the country have updated their Safe Mode protocols, the precautions at BLS have largely stayed the same for over a decade.

Although Head of School Gallagher and the school administration state that they have made changes to the previous protocol, what they have done in particular does not seem evident.

Thus, many students are expressing concern about the current safety precautions at BLS. Marquis says, “If the person wanted to hurt somebody, they would probably be able to because we’re just sitting there.”

At the moment, Safe Mode involves securing all doors and windows, placing a poster over the window of the classroom door and keeping all students at their desks. Teachers, however, have interpreted this process differently, which has led  to confusion and varied responses.

Another concern many have regards the use of social media during lockdown, as some students were live-streaming and posting videos during this time. Some fear that this could have jeopardized the students’ safety if there was an internal threat, as it increases the chance of being noticed by the intruder. Head of School Gallagher has noted that technology use is acceptable as long as students are using social media as a form of communication and not as a way to spread misinformation.

The recent response to the perceived external threat at BLS reflects an ongoing nationwide concern about school safety measures. Members of the BLS administration note that there is still work to be done when responding to and communicating about situations like this.

Head of School Gallagher says, “What I wish I had done or what we will do in the future is if we have the information, to give more information, [and] to tell families, to tell students here at the school, ‘We’re going into Safe Mode.’”