Students’ families call for change after Dorchester High School shooting

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An 18-year-old student was shot dead outside Jeremiah E. Burke High School on Tuesday morning, after being stabbed last month at Dorchester school. Another student, whom police believe to be the shooter, has been taken into custody. A weapon found in the area has been recovered, according to Boston police.

“It’s a strong community,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said at a school news conference. “They went through trauma earlier this year. … What happened today is not acceptable.”

Williams Varela, an 18-year-old senior at the school, said his teacher kept him and other students calm and followed lockdown protocols for several hours.

“I never thought anyone would bring a gun to this school,” Varela said. “It was traumatic.”

Varela’s father Julio picked up Williams and her sister from school after the lockdown was lifted, having waited to hear more in the hours after the shooting.

“We need better security,” Julio said. “I thought my children were dead.”

Officers responded to a report of a fatality at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and found a teenager with gunshot wounds, Boston police say. The teenager, who BPD investigators say was shot in the stomach, was taken to hospital and is now in stable condition. The suspect – a student whom authorities have not identified – is in custody and faces charges that are still being determined, according to the BPD. No motive has been identified and authorities say the investigation is ongoing.

A student was stabbed in the stomach and shoulder outside of high school last month during class time and was rushed to hospital, Boston Public Schools said in a statement.

Jesse Romero, 22, picked up his 16-year-old brother around the corner from school on Tuesday afternoon. He says he was shocked by the two incidents of violence that have taken place since the start of the school year.

“We live in Massachusetts, so it’s not a common thing, you don’t expect it here,” Romero said. “In the first few weeks there were stabbings and now gunshots. … With this increase in violence, you have to be prepared, you have to be safe.”

Romero says his brother is in the process of transferring to a school closer to his home in Allston/Brighton.

“He tries not to put himself in situations where he knows other students have access to violent weapons, but I worry about him,” Romero said. “I mean, he won’t come to this school anymore.”

Jeremiah E. Burke was the first high school in the state to emerge from “turnaround” status, transforming a school with historically high dropout rates, low graduation rates, and a failure to meet the academic demands of the into a significantly improved institution through an improvement plan in early 2010.

School staff analyzed student data and found that about 80 percent of students had experienced trauma, including homelessness, poverty, and gun violence. A case study published in 2016 shows how a strategy to deal with trauma sensitively led to significant improvements in school performance.

“It’s unfortunate when I think of the work that needs to be done here. We cannot keep having the same conversation and expecting different results,” Councilwoman Julia Mejia told reporters outside the school on Tuesday. “This really is an opportunity for the city to hug the Burke and work collaboratively…otherwise we’re going to continue to see ourselves in this same situation.”

This process should involve every member of the community and involve city officials and law enforcement, Mejia said, echoing concerns expressed by Wu.

“It cannot be the school department’s sole responsibility to address violence in our communities,” Wu said Tuesday morning. “What happens in the lives of our students, at home and in the community, eventually finds its way into our sacred spaces of learning.

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