Details Release Info on Steps Taken by School & Police After Discovery of Middle School List

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Watertown Middle School (Courtesy of Watertown Public Schools)

Watertown Public School officials released some details about the steps taken by Watertown Middle School and the Watertown Police following the discovery of a list of students created by a WMS student. A meeting was held Tuesday night where some parents expressed frustration about the lack of information released.

The meeting Tuesday night was closed to the media, and school officials said it was intended for parents, staff and the Watertown Middle School community.

Watertown Middle School Principal Jennifer Fein Chen and Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston sent out the following letter:

Dear Watertown Middle School Families

Thank you to all the members of our WMS community who came to our discussion last night regarding our school safety situation last week.

One of the primary takeaways from this forum was that many caregivers feel that not enough information about the school’s process has been shared. We understand how important communication is when a critical incident occurs in school that involves school safety. It is our hope that this letter will provide more clarity.

While it is true that we cannot get into specific details regarding this incident, we do feel it’s important to outline step-by-step, while abiding by the law, how we responded to this incident and the steps we have taken to move forward as a school community.

Discovery of the list and our response:

  • The list first came to our attention when a teacher overheard students discussing it in class. At this point it was word of mouth; no information about specific students was available. Administrators began to take immediate action to investigate the situation and determine the level of threat to the school.

Actions taken to assess threat level:

  • WMS administrators informed the Watertown Police Department and Superintendent Galdston
  • WMS administrators immediately contacted the student’s family about the allegation of a list and the potential threat it may have.
  • WMS administrators followed safety protocols at school to determine the safety of the building.
  • WMS mental health staff completed a mental health assessment.
  • The WPS Information Technology Department completed device search.
  • Administrators received advisement from WPS legal counsel around threat assessment and communication practices.
  • The Watertown Police Department did a criminal investigation and closed it without charges.
    • Police advised that there was no threat to the public or community and therefore no further investigation was needed.

Re-entry steps:

  • Communication to all staff with initial information to support all students
  • Creation of safety plans for students who were immediately impacted by this list.
  • Creation of a safety plan for the student who wrote the list
  • Communication with staff of students directly impacted by the list so staff can work together to implement the safety plans
  • Advisory lesson on Friday that will share information about this safety situation and things that students can do to be “upstanders” like speaking up if they ever have information of potential harm to self or others so that we can keep our community safe
  • Support WMS staff to engage in the conversations with students during advisory or classes
  • Debrief and refresh as an administrative team, and mental health team

Please note that additional steps have been taken at this time that are specific to students and cannot be shared.

We appreciate the support of the Watertown Police Department in determining that there was no threat to the public or community and therefore no further investigation was needed.

If any students or caregivers have any additional information regarding this situation, please inform a WMS administrator. You are also always welcome to share information regarding community safety with the Watertown Police Department. Captain Dan Unsworth can be reached at dunsworth@police.watertown-ma.gov.

The safety of all of our students is our top priority. Thank you for your continued understanding and partnership.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Chen Fein
Principal
Watertown Middle School
jennifer.chenfein@watertown.k12.ma.us

Dr. Deanne Galdston
Superintendent
Watertown Public Schools
deanne.galdston@watertown.k12.ma.us

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