Things have apparently gotten so out of hand at a suburban Boston high school that some local school committee officials want members of the National Guard to patrol the halls.

Four members of the Brockton School Committee have sent a letter to the city’s Mayor, Robert Sullivan, asking him to convey their request to Gov. Maura Healey to deploy state guardsmen to Brockton High School.

The four board members — Joyce Asack, Ana Oliver, Tony Rodrigues, and Claudio Gomes — say that safety at the school has deteriorated in the last year.

In one incident last May, several people were stabbed outside the high school, leading to five arrests. During an emergency school committee meeting last month, several Brockton High School teachers said they were afraid for their safety, and one educator said she had been pushed into a locker and stepped on.

The four school committee members are not asking Gov. Healey to “deploy a whole army to our school,” Oliver said at a news conference on Monday.

Instead, the National Guard service members could serve as high school substitute teachers and hall monitors, Rodrigues told reporters at Monday’s news conference.

“If you support safety in our schools, you will support the National Guard to come in here and keep our students safe,” Rodrigues. “What’s going on at the high school is disheartening, and kids are losing precious learning time when kids are causing chaos.”

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Gomes tried to calm any public misgivings about having guardsmen deploy to the high school.

“I know that the first thought that comes to mind when you hear ‘National Guard’ is uniform and arms,” Gomes said. “That’s not the case. They’re people like us. They’re educated. They’re trained, and we just need their assistance right now. We need more staff to support our staff and help the students learn [and] have a safe environment. That’s the case for us.”

Task & Purpose was unable to reach Asack, Oliver, or Rodrigues for comment. Gomes said he was too busy on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

The four committee members presented a dire situation at the high school in their letter to Mayor Sullivan.

“Over the past few months, our high school has experienced a disturbing increase in incidents related to violence, security concerns, and substance abuse,” the school committee members wrote. “The situation has reached a critical point, more recently we had an alarming 35 teachers absent, underscoring the severity of the challenges we are facing.”

The committee members also cited frequent incidents of students “wandering the halls” and causing disruptions in classrooms. Additionally, students are leaving the school without permission, while other people have managed to get access to the high school without proper authorization.

In light of these security issues, the school committee members asked Sullivan to request the state’s National Guard deploy to Brockton High School to help address “the root causes of the issues we are facing.”

“We understand the gravity of this request and the importance of collaboration between local and state authorities,” the school committee members wrote. “The National Guard’s expertise in crisis management and community support can offer a vital temporary intervention, allowing for a comprehensive, long-term solution to be developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.”

The Guard In Schools

While serving as hall monitors and substitute teachers may not sound like tasks that would fall under the National Guard’s purview, states have increasingly used their guardsmen over the years to solve a litany of problems beyond traditional  National Guard Missions like disaster relief. In 2021, then Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated up to 250 guardsmen to deal with a bus driver shortage.

The National Guard is also the go-to force for a wide variety of domestic and overseas missions. During 2023, guardsmen were deployed for roughly 12.7 million days on both state and federal orders, according to the National Guard Bureau. About 9.1 million of those days were in support of warfighting missions and various combatant commands; and roughly 3.3 million were spent on homeland defense missions.

A Massachusetts National Guard spokesman deferred questions about the request to deploy guardsmen at Brockton High School to Gov. Healey’s office. Karissa Hand, a spokeswoman for Gov. Healey, said the governor’s office is aware of “concerns raised about Brockton High School” and it is in touch with local officials.

“Our administration is committed to ensuring that schools are safe and supportive environments for students, educators and staff,” Hand said in a statement.

In 2020, the National Guard was mobilized to support police during nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. President John F. Kennedy also federalized the Alabama National Guard in 1961 to desegregate the University of Alabama.

But for the most part, school districts and police are responsible for security at public schools.

Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan has said he understands the gravity of concerns about violent crime and disruptive behavior at Brockton High School, and that local police are working with school administrators to make the high school  a safe place for students to learn.

But Sulliivan said he does not support the idea of deploying the Massachusetts National Guard to Brockton High School.

“While we appreciate the suggestions put forth by four school committee members, we believe that such measures are not appropriate,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Instead, we are committed to employing a collaborative approach that involves the entire community, including parents, students, educators, and law enforcement, to tackle these challenges head-on.”

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