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Springfield Sci-Tech students say they were unaware of shooter on campus, ask for transparency

Paula Starnes,  executive director of Youth Social Educational Training, speaking at the Springfield School Committee meeting on March 14, 2023. Attendees behind her hold signs reading "Hands up, Guns down" and "Keep our students safe."
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Springfield Municipal Meetings Youtube
Paula Starnes, a teacher at Putnam Technical Vocational Academy, speaking at the Springfield School Committee meeting on March 14, 2023. Attendees behind her hold signs reading "Hands up, Guns down" and "Keep our students safe."

Students from The High School of Science and Technology and surrounding Springfield schools are claiming they were completely unaware of the lockdown which happened on Monday, due to a shooter on campus.

According to the Springfield Police Department, on March 11 at around 2:10 p.m., a group of individuals - including at least three who were not students - forcefully entered Sci-Tech through a side door. One of the intruders was armed, and a shot was fired through a window. No one was shot, but one person was struck and injured.

At a school committee meeting Thursday, students and staff from several schools made public comments claiming they were unaware of a shooter on campus, and that there was a lack of transparency between administrators, faculty and students.

Commenters expressed an immense distrust in the school district since the incident, especially in the way information was communicated throughout the schools.

One student from Sci-Tech, Julius Lowe Wannamaker, explained that he had no idea there was an active shooter until he saw social media posts when he was home.

“Everybody was confused on Monday, even me,” said Wannamaker. “I was in school when it happened and we only were made aware of it when an admin or a teacher was yelling in the hallway.”

Wannamaker, like many students at the meeting, said he is frustrated by the administration's response. Students are asking for transparency and clear communication from the administration in future crisis situations.

“I feel like student safety is not the number one priority of our administrators and people in power,” said Wannamaker.

He also went on to explain that students were initially released from their classes, before the principal came on the intercom to tell students to return to their classroom - however a reason was not given at the time.

Lanaiya Iturrino, a student activist with Pioneer Valley Project, who attends Honors Academy at the High School of Commerce, expressed immense disappointment in the way the schools handled the incident.

“Springfield Public Schools handled the situation at Sci-Tech with ignorance and failed to proceed with proper protocol,” said Iturrino. “Most [students] didn’t even know they were in a lockdown.”

According to a press release from Springfield Public Schools “Putnam Academy and STEM Middle Academy were also placed on lockdown due to their proximity to The High School of Science and Technology.”

However, Paula Starnes, a Putnam Technical Vocational Academy teacher, said students at the high school were released while the campus was meant to be on lockdown and an active shooter was presumably still in the area.

“Why is it that 1,500 students were dismissed from Putnam into an area that had an active shooter?” Starnes said. “Why is it that at 2:17 students were released into that chaos?”

Students at the school committee meeting also reported that their comments under the press release on Facebook and Instagram, criticizing the district's response, were deleted. Comments are currently disabled on both posts.

School officials did not respond to a request for comment on these claims.

Officials said the day after the shooting, counselors were present at all school campuses to help staff and students make sense of the event.

Springfield Education Association (SEA) president Tracy Little-Sasancki was one of the counselors on the scene, and she said that staff and students were shaken.

Little-Sasancki said she used to work as a counselor full-time in schools, and worked directly on building crisis teams for situations like this - from her understanding that team was not called in this incident.

Little-Sasancki also explained that SEA has proposed a 2-hour starting delay for the next day following a crisis situation at a school, in order to allow staff, administration and crisis teams to assess the situation and how to move forward.

Pioneer Valley Planning student activists at the meeting also complained about the use of surveillance cameras in the schools, asking the committee whether they were actually helpful in maintaining safety during this incident.

Springfield Police Superintendent Cherly Clapprood, Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno have credited the technology at the schools which made it possible for them to identify the suspects and the vehicle involved.

When asked by NEPM, school committee member LaTonia Naylor stressed the necessity of surveillance cameras in the schools.

“If we did not have cameras that we would not have known where the vehicle went, we would not have known what the vehicle looked like that the assailants went into,” Naylor said. “So you do want to have some level of security to where if somebody comes into the building like that we can identify them and we can see what’s what versus a bunch of kids giving us social media videos.”

Springfield police have arrested 22-year-old Josiah Livingston for his involvement in the incident. There is anarrest warrant out for 20-year-old Chantz Dudley, who is believed to have shot the gun.