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Police presence 'evolving' at schools to avert tragedy

Barnstable Police Supervisor of School Resource Officers: "We're going to learn things from what happened in Texas — where the weak points were, and where we can improve in our district."

Barnstable police officers this week are increasing their presence at the town's five elementary schools following the shootings that killed 19 children and two teachers in a classroom in Uvalde, Texas.

An Adopt-a-School officer is assigned to each elementary school, with an additional five resource officers working at the high school, Barnstable Intermediate School and the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, says Sgt. Gene Desruisseaux, the Barnstable Police supervisor of School Resource and Adopt-a-School officers.

"Our focus is school safety, that's what our job is," Desruisseaux tells CAI. "We don't go out on patrol, we don't make car stops. We focus 100% on the safety of the schools and building relationships with the kids, and getting information that may avert a tragic event. In situations like what happened in Texas, we're going to learn things from that — where the weak points were, and where we can improve in our district."

Resource officers this week have been talking with and counseling high schoolers concerned for their safety.

"We're utilizing everybody on the patrol shift to make frequent checks in the schools, check in with the staff every now and then, and be a presence on campus to show support and alleviate any fears and anxieties that may arise," says Desruisseaux, who serves as Barnstable High School's resource officer and Centerville Elementary’s Adopt-A-School officer.

Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown wrote in an email to parents this week that Barnstable schools "continually enhance our safety systems [including] video surveillance systems" at main entrances, which require visual and verbal identification to enter. She said students are offered social-emotional learning opportunities including Second Step and Responsive Classroom.

Falmouth Schools Superintendent Lori Duerr wrote to parents that "we have increased our counseling staff [and] police presence in and around our schools."

While Massachusetts has among the fewest gun-related crimes in the country, more than 173,000 guns were sold statewide last year, according to the Falmouth Gun Safety Coalition.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.