Southbridge receiver mishandled gun incident at school

Southbridge receiver mishandled gun incident at school

The following statement is from MTA President Max Page and Vice President Deb McCarthy regarding state Receiver Jeffrey Villar’s dangerous mishandling of a gun incident at Southbridge High School.

The MTA applauds the courage of the Southbridge Education Association for bringing to light the gross mishandling of a dangerous situation at Southbridge High School and a subsequent cover-up by Jeffrey Villar, the Southbridge Public Schools’ state-appointed receiver.

Villar has again proven himself unfit to lead the district, given his response to the discovery that a student had a gun at Southbridge High School on March 13. Police have since charged two students, one with serious weapons violations. Yet Villar continues to maintain that the situation was not dangerous.

Receivership in general has proven to be ineffective in meeting the needs of students. Villar has a track record of being particularly ineffectual in this role and is now a true liability to the safety and well-being of the community.

Villar and his administration failed to place the school in lockdown when it was learned that a student was posting videos of himself on social media possessing a gun in the school. More shockingly, school administrators dispatched school staff to find one of the students who was involved in the gun incident, never informing staff about the possibility that the student could be armed.

This total disregard for the safety of students and school personnel is unacceptable.

This incident is further proof that state receivership is a wholesale policy failure. The MTA has long maintained that disconnecting public schools from their communities — which is what receivership does — prevents stakeholders from influencing decisions that affect students and educators. Now we see how that disconnection literally puts community safety in jeopardy.

Villar has failed to effectively and honestly communicate what happened on March 13 to his staff and to the community.

The lack of both a comprehensive strategy to secure the school, and a sense of urgency, likely contributed to the fact that the weapon resulting in the criminal charges has not been recovered. Thus, at a time when school shootings are a sickening national epidemic, a gun remains unaccounted for thanks to Villar’s attempt to downplay and dismiss a dangerous situation.