‘They Have Experienced Trauma': Calls for Change After Latest Violence at Burke School

A student was shot outside the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester Tuesday morning

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After a student was shot outside a Boston high school there are questions about what should be done to prevent further violence and how to help families affected.

This happened outside Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester Tuesday morning. The teenage student was taken to the hospital and is listed in stable condition. A suspect, also believed to be a student, was identified and taken into custody.



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“I’m hearing a lot of fear. You know, Imagine getting a phone call, or hearing about this on social media,” said Boston Councilor Julia Mejia, who was at the school Tuesday afternoon to help in the aftermath of the violence.

She said the incident, which happened just a month after a student was stabbed outside the same school last month, highlights that more needs to be done at the school to ensure a safe and productive environment for its families.

“It’s unfortunate when I think about the work that needs to be done here. We can’t keep continuing to have the same conversation and expecting different results. This is really an opportunity for the city to wrap their arms around the Burke, and work collaboratively. that means the clergy the community, building relationships with our law enforcement, getting people engaged in this process because otherwise we’re going to continue to see ourselves in this same situation,” she said.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu seemed to agree.

“This is a community that is strong, they have experienced trauma,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu Tuesday. “What happened today is not OK and it cannot be the responsibility of just our school department to address violence in our communities,” she added. 

Among the things Mejia said she would like to see are more mental health and wellness supports for families and students, including funding for guidance counselors, a sentiment echoed by Todd McGee, a security expert and former Massachusetts State Police trooper.

"This is trauma. This is whether you are the direct victim or not. This is not normal. Schools should be sacred," McGee said, saying that emotional support and adjustment counselors will be essential to help students cope with the situation.

"We can't minimize the impact that this has for those students who are not directly involved. It's still trauma," he added.

Dr. Jonathan Jay, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said this kind of repeated violence is a public health problem, not a crime problem.

"When young people carry weapons and use them it’s overwhelming it’s because they feel unsafe. They’ve been exposed to adversity and trauma and they haven’t been given the services and opportunities they need and so we need to see this as an opportunity to go in and work with communities to strengthen opportunities and services for young people," Jay said.

He also noted that in cities like Boston gun violence can take an unequal toll on communities of color and said investment in those communities is key to the solution, which was a point made by community leaders who spoke to NBC10 Boston on Tuesday.

"This is traumatizing this is traumatizing what happened at this school today," said Rev. Eugine Rivers, executive director of the Baker House. "We need to have an adult conversation because the conditions of poor Black people in the most violent neighborhoods is being ignored."

"This is disgraceful, this kind of violence," he added. "There is great frustration in these poor violent neighborhoods."

How police respond to safety incidents at schools is also an issue that was raised by the event. McGee said he gave Boston police high marks for their immediate response of putting the school into safe mode and holding students in classrooms until the investigation was under control.

“A very thoughtful and methodical approach by Boston police,” McGee said, adding that school resource officers were in the building and able to offer triage treatment to the victim as well as help secure the scene.

However, some parents have said they were frustrated by a lack of communication by the school about what was happening. McGee said it would have been best for the school to put out an initial communication through some kind of automated system.

“So what we have to think about is what the students are sending out on their own accord, to parents to their friends. That’s the first level of alert and that’s not where a parent wants to be notified, is by their child,” he said.

He noted that it can complicate an already dangerous situation if parents start to converge on the school during an active incident, so that's a scenario law enforcement will want to avoid.

"There is a great need for mass notification to be sent out to parents so that there is some level of communication between the school, the activity, the coordination with the Boston Police Department and what they would require the parents to do," he explained.

Robin Williams, who has a ninth-grader who attends Burke but was home on Tuesday, said she is alarmed by the violence and has put in for a transfer for her child.

"It’s very scary. I just kiss my kids every morning and just hope and pray that they come back home," she said.

The Burke school has already had to overcome its share of adversity. It is the state's first successful example of a turnaround school, according to Mejia, which means it was identified as an underperforming program by the state but took steps to make the necessary improvements. For more information on that, click here.

The school was released from safe mode Tuesday afternoon. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Police ask anyone with information relevant to the case to contact the department's District Two detectives at 617-343-4270.

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