by Tony Bottiglio
I grew up in Somerville. I attended Conwell, Powder House, West Somerville, and Somerville High. Back then, the city still had most of its charm, but it wasn’t always the safest place to live. My parents moved us out of Somerville, like so many others, and we settled in the suburbs. Twenty years later, I have returned with my own family.
I felt comfortable moving back to my hometown. In many ways, I never left. I still visited friends and relatives here, I still needed my Leone’s fix at least once a month, and I regularly took my daughter on walking trips around Davis Square and Boston via the T (“Daddy, can we move to Somerville someday?”).
Even though Somerville has lost a lot of the people and places that made it special, the trade-off (I thought) was that the city had become safer with the influx of so many well-to-do young professionals.
That illusion was shattered for me last week.
My daughter is 15 years old. She is strong-willed, resilient, and mature beyond her years. Academically, she is thriving at Somerville High. She is an Honor Roll student, enrolled in the vocation program, and works five days a week at the After School Program. In October, she began expressing fear around the frequency of fist fights at the school.
Her fears about violence at the school became alarming when, after a brawl in the cafeteria, she overheard two students say, “This school is gonna get shot up soon,” “I know people who are bringing in machetes,” and “They need to start checking people.”
She came to me crying, terrified. I immediately called the police and was shocked and appalled at what they told me: Somerville Police are not allowed at Somerville High. Let me repeat that: The police, the people who are best equipped to protect our kids from violence, are not allowed inside a high school where violence is on the rise.
And why aren’t police allowed in the high school? The answer made my head spin: The administration says kids are scared of the police.
I can think of at least two things that kids find scarier than police: 1) Being shot, and 2) Being stabbed.
How did this happen? Have far-left hacks so thoroughly corrupted our city’s leadership that we are enacting anti-safety policies that put our kids in danger? It would appear so. As I found out, the Somerville School Committee voted earlier this year to permanently ban Somerville Police from the school. Jaw, meet floor.
Unfortunately, the politics of social media and cable news have trapped our administration officials, and many of our residents, into viewing every issue through a partisan lens. Anyone suggesting that police be allowed in schools (gasp) is labeled as subversive and ostracized. In reality, it’s about safety, not politics.
Fast forward to Thursday, November 2nd. My wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent daughter calls me in hysterics. There is a melee outside the school. Rumors are flying about guns and knives. People are trying to get into the school to hurt those inside. She is pleading with me. She wants to leave Somerville High and never come back.
When the lockdown was lifted, I ran to the school and met my daughter halfway. She was sobbing, trembling, and traumatized. My blood boiled.
I took action. I spread the word on social media. I contacted administration officials. I contacted the news networks. The only written response I received was from the principal and the superintendent, in the form of an email blast sent out to all SHS parents. In their message, they used soft language to downplay the severity of the incident, concerned with protecting themselves politically rather than protecting our kids from violence.
I am not blind to issues of social and racial injustice, police brutality, and police reform. But these are political issues. They do not negate the need for police in our society, or in our schools, or at a high school that is experiencing an increasing number of violent episodes.
I am proud to have attended schools in Somerville that were socially and ethnically diverse. We were lucky to have teachers and administrators who cared about us. But we were especially lucky to have our School Resource Officers. They were universally loved. I’m not privy to the selection process, but it seems to me that only the kindest, gentlest, and most personable cops are chosen to be Resource Officers.
This administration needs a wake-up call. Was the melee that ensued on November 2nd enough? Or will it take a tragedy, similar to what we’ve seen other schools endure, for the police to be allowed back in our High School?
For my part, I’m not done speaking out. I was recently interviewed by Malcolm Johnson on NBC10. I encourage Somerville High parents to email Malcolm (Malcolm.firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your experience and express your outrage. If we keep the pressure up, we can force this administration to do the right thing. We need police at Somerville High.