Friday, March 28, 2014


The final piece of the puzzle has fallen into place in the school lock down scare with confirmation the perp who infiltrated Amherst Regional Middle School and asked a young student for his urine was simply trying to obtain a clean sample for his probation officer.

I guess drugs will do that.

Not to sound like a Gazette editorial, but on the one hand I applaud how quickly the school officials hit the panic button when the perp seemed to get lost wandering around the Middle School for a half hour.  But on the other hand, his easy access to an innocent school child mid-morning of a school day gives rise to security concerns.

I would also, for the first time in memory, give the schools high marks for transparency for sending out a series of alerts concerning the concerning situation.  Right up until Wednesday night 6:30 p.m. when they went silent.

While this final piece of information is troubling, it's still a bit better than some of the scenarios that sprang to mind when rumors first leaked out about the "concerning comment" made in a boys lavatory.

One of the reasons the schools are now in such hot water with the NAACP over how they handled the racist attack on a teacher of color (branded as "anemic") probably stems from the cover up that took place over the incidents that first occurred way back in October.

One of the refreshing things that came out of the "public accountability" session yesterday between UMass officials and students over handling of the Blarney Blowout was the insistence by Chancellor Subbaswamy that the process would be "transparent."

So if an educational bureaucracy the size of UMass can subscribe to the notion of sunlight providing the "best of disinfectants", why not our public schools?

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Walter Graff said...

So to recap:

A guy who doesn't have a student in an Amherst school is let into the school via the super secure, $150,000 lock system and freely roams the halls.


A guy who doesn't have a student in an Amherst school is let into a second school via the super secure, $150,000 lock system and freely roams the halls.


School sends out a bunch of updates on the subject after the racial debockle where nothing is said and things are hidden.

Result: School administration covers their ass because anyway you slice it, the administration failed the students and the staff of both schools again.

So either create a safer protocol where people can't be simply buzzed in without office staff knowing the reason the person needs entry including the student they are guardian of, and even then asking them to hold a drivers license up to the camera before being buzzed, or get rid of the $150,000 locks and go back to being a normal school that doesn't work from fear.

Anonymous said...

This blatant lack of security is yet another indication of the wasteful, inefficient spending that is the hallmark of Geryk and her administration. We pay them so much yet our children get so little in education (comparatively speaking based on surrounding town's test scores) and now security. The ARPS needs a new, less greedy administration with a successful plan it is willing to actually work at and not just talk about.

Anonymous said...

Walter does have a point but it is a point that seems wasted on our society as a whole. We have lots of security measures that don't work, cost lots of money, and waste lots of time. Amherst could make a few changes to get the one they have much better.

It always amazed me to that once buzzed in because of building design there is little the office staff can do to stop you from wandering.

Living in fear really does not work

Anonymous said...

I think we should all be thankful the criminal mind is usually not the sharpest or well educated. Going into a school to get a urine sample, where did he come up with that.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly think this article should have been titled "Urine Business." But, it's not my blog, so...

Walter Graff said...

PART 1 Of 2

I'm only making a simple request, if you are going to work off a fear-based system, then have protocols that protect our staff and children.

Ms. Geryk once again shows us that as an administrator she lacks the necessary skills to do even the simplest tasks. Anyone that gives the parents a final list of three possible school principles for Fort River but hasn't even vetted the person well enough to find out they had a pretty serious DUI arrest is lacking in any ability as an administrator. I could do that at home on my computer, and yet a school system is ready to hire a person who has a record and lacks moral character?

Larry you bring up how wonderful it is that the administration was so good at informing the parents this time around. Luckily they were informing us of something that turned out to be a safe story. Let's stop and give thanks knowing far worse scenarios exist.

Let's face it, all this security in schools is an industry of fear created by the myth that school shootings are a new problem in our society. That is incorrect. The first school shooting occurred in the 1760's and in the last 20 years there are anywhere from 10-30 shootings on school grounds a year in the US. Nationally, student deaths at school remain exceedingly rare according to federal statistics. So rare that you could win both Megamillions and Powerball before your kid would be in danger. But fear drives people. So let them have cake.

Amherst has embraced the fear and maybe rightfully so as there are enough wacko extreme leftists (Ed) in this area to possibly warrant it.

But for God's sake, if you are going to have a security system then get off your ass and make a standardized protocol that offers a more safer scenario for our staff and our children. Buying a nifty fence with barbed wire and then leaving the gate open is just plain ignorance.

No, you can't stop everything, but can you take an extra step to provide those extra minutes, those extra seconds that could count.

I doubt very much any parent would be upset if it became harder for any of us to enter the school between morning and afternoon.

Here's the problem, in most all areas where these nifty false sense of security buzzer systems are, office workers are not expected to screen who gets in and who doesn't, except in situations where someone presents an obvious threat. So next question is, who is a threat? And there you have the problem.

Question one: Is the system really more to control access than it is to do some kind of profiling or screening? If it's to control access than the system fails miserably. A person who had no business being in the school was not only in the school but deep into the school, in a bathroom alone with a student. As for screening I know at Fort River I have NEVER heard anyone ask a question on or even use the intercom.

So here is what you need to do:

1)Decide what the system that locks the doors is for and what it's goal is

2)Discuss the issues at hand with the Amherst PD and organizations that now exist that specialize in these entry systems and proper protocols. I know you have, but clearly not enough as it hasn't worked. Our first line of defense failed miserably not at one school but at two, on the same day, by the same person.

Walter Graff said...

PART 2 of 2

My first suggestion if you haven't is to train all school staff to follow procedures district-wide. And if you have then retrain. Most organizations who do this training teach school staff to use a list of clarifying questions to determine whether the visitor has a legitimate reason to enter the school. I know I speak for myself and other parents that are simply let into any place we buzz, no questions asked. And staff members should been trained on how to handle various situations that could arise during the buzz-in process. If there is any concern about admitting the visitor, school staff should contact school administration for response BEFORE buzzing a perosn in. I'd go as far as to say monthly surprise tests of the system should occur just as fire drills do. It's that important!!

Allowing security systems to get stale is the reason for 9/11, the reason why a school in Newton CT that had exactly the same security system lost so many innocent lives, and the reason no one bothered to notice a rouge passenger plane diverting off course recently.

I don't want to read a story of my kids being killed because people got lazy. Please do diligence to this matter. Like I said odds are slim to none that an issue will arise but since you spent the money buying the system, then use it properly.

And now this???????? Another entry today 3/28 at Crocker Farm? Come on Amherst, fire this administration and get one that has some sense of what the hell they are doing

Anonymous said...

Despite what some readers of this blog may think of Walter, his central points on this issue are spot on.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of graffiti, the middle school could use a signage upgrade.

Walter Graff said...

Nobody likes a rebel but rebels are the ones that change the world, not the bread and circus. As Steve Jobs once said:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Keithw said...

I'd like to know what the particulars of his probation are and whether or not he's an offender. The fact that he gained entry to 2 schools, one being elementary is alarming. The idea of his speaking to staff members and not raising any suspicion in the least and having the ability to roam around afterwards is most alarming. If it turns out that staff let a dangerous criminal into 2 schools and allowed him to walk into a bathroom with a child in it, heads are gonna roll. HUGE security breech.

Anonymous said...

Walter, there's an open seat on the School Committee next spring, why don't you consider running and turn it into a referendum on the current school administration, so you can find out if Amherst agrees with your points of view.

Keithw said...

@Walter Graff, I don't disagree necessarily, but Newtown's system was intact. Adam Lanza gained entry by shooting his way in through the glass in the front of the school. All of the security there is will not stop a determined individual. The fact that schools are soft targets certainly doesn't help either.

Anonymous said...

Walter, re the Jobs quote: good thing you're not wasting your life living someone else's, huh? And have you noticed that you're the one who's trying to drown out other's voices with your noisy opinions, and not the other way around?

What a nudzh!

Anonymous said...

I take it back. "Urine Trouble" would be much better.

Anonymous said...

A) Hire school resource officer or officers. There has only been one attack on a school that has them AND the fatalities were lessened because of them. They also gather great intellegence and can often intervene before it is too late.

b) All doors locked and enter into an anti-chamber w/bullet resitent glass (like the police station or gas staions in "tough" neighborhoods). No entry w/o being buzzed in from anti-chamber.

c) plastic coating on glass and/or chickenwire in between panes. Stops/delays the Lanza type entries. Buys first responders and CSOs time to respond.

Cheap measures to harden the target. This $h!t is happening too often to gamble.

Anonymous said...

Walter cannot run for school committee because he does not live in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Walter -
Once again, principals are your pals, not your ples.

Anonymous said...

Get the reference- Urinetown was the 2006 annual musical at ARHS.

off topic- the dressing rooms at Target need modification- kids and adults of both sexes share the same area (parents should be aware of this- and should not allow kids to go in alone!) The attendant can not see to monitor the area. I was there with a disabled adult male (no threat to kids but I was very uncomfortable with the set up)

Anonymous said...

Make that wildly off-topic,

Anonymous said...

When did that awful stencil-type signage go up? Makes the place look even more drearily institutional than it used to.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the front entrance to the middle school, it almost looks like people worked at making it ugly and institutional. Call in the artists!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:37 and 11:58

Those stenciled words were put up by students and families to reflect the diversity of our community. Like my mother always said, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all....especially about signage.

Anonymous said...

Is the Amherst Regional Middle School title spray painted onto the concrete at the front entrance? How professional looking. It looks like really bad graffiti. C'mon Town Manager, can't you pony up a couple of hundred dollars for a real sign?