By Laura Barrett
M embers of the Medford Teachers Association and the Medford Paraprofessionals Association joined
parents in packing a special School Committee
meeting on Feb. 22 to address safety concerns after
the community learned that a loaded magazine for
a semiautomatic handgun had been found in the
McGlynn School over the winter break but that the
discovery was not reported to the police or mayor
for seven weeks.
One upshot of the unions’ collective action
is that the school district has promised to take
educators’ safety concerns more seriously. A first step
was allowing the unions to hold their own union-led
professional development session addressing issues
raised by the incident.
Charlene Douglas, president of the teachers’
association, and Gina Coppola, president of the
paraprofessionals’ association, said their members
were very upset by both the discovery itself and
how it was handled. Members were never formally
notified of the situation by the district; they had
to learn about it via e-mail correspondence from
Coppola and Douglas.
At the School Committee meeting on Feb.
22, Medford Chief of Police Leo Sacco said that
the loaded magazine was found in the school’s
auditorium on Dec. 29 by an employee of a cleaning
service working in the building over the winter
break. The employee took a photograph of the
device and turned it over to district administrators.
It apparently ended up on the desk of McGlynn
Middle School Principal Jake Edwards. Officials
said Edwards may have thrown it away when he was
cleaning his office on Dec. 30.
As MTA Today went to press, the origins of
the magazine, how it ended up in the school and
why it was discarded had not yet been identified or
Superintendent Roy Belson said he learned
about the magazine in early January. At the School
Committee meeting, Belson acknowledged he didn’t
tell Mayor Stephanie Burke or Sacco about it until
“I’m telling you outright, I made a mistake in
judgment,” Belson said. “I thought I was doing the
right thing because I didn’t want to raise anxiety over
something. Undoubtedly, I did raise anxiety. I made a
mistake. I accept responsibility for it.”
As a result of that decision, Belson and the
School Committee reached an agreement requiring
him to retire at the end of April instead of at the end
of the school year, as he had previously planned.
Although rumors about the magazine had been
circulating for days, it finally became public when
Boston 25 News broke the story on Feb. 20.
After the story broke, Douglas sent a letter to the
superintendent and mayor demanding that the school
be searched immediately, that all safety procedures
and protocols be reviewed, that school staff be
trained appropriately and that members be consulted
Two days later, Mayor Burke and Chief Sacco
held a press conference at Medford City Hall at
which they announced that Edwards had been
placed on paid administrative leave while his role
in the incident was being investigated. They also
announced that all Medford schools had been
searched thoroughly and that no gun, ammunition or
other contraband was found.
T hat night, several hundred members and parents filled the Medford High School auditorium at the special School Committee
meeting. The anger and frustration quickly boiled
over into yelling and sharp criticism.
Douglas called on the district to make several
changes, including developing guidance on how
to talk to students about the incident to calm
fears, offering more professional development on
safety protocols, and getting educator input into
strengthening protocols that already exist.
The School Committee voted to cancel school
the following Monday so staff could take part in
professional development related to school safety.
The mayor agreed to the union’s request that the
Massachusetts Teachers Association run a session for
all members, teachers and paraprofessionals during
the first hour and a half of that day.
At that session, members were asked to address
three questions: What are your feelings? What are
your concerns? What do you want to do? The input
was extensive. Douglas said members thought it was
by far the most valuable part of the day.
“Members felt heard when their voices came
through our union,” Douglas said.
But there’s more to be done. She and Coppola
said that educators need to be part of the solution.
“As we’ve all seen from the recent tragedy in
Florida,” Douglas testified at the special meeting,
“staff are on the front lines in school shooting
incidents, often using their own bodies to shield their
students. We need to be included every step of the
In March, teachers were introduced to new
crisis training protocols and plans were initiated to
develop a school safety committee that will include
educators, School Committee members, parents and
Coppola said that paraprofessionals are just
as vulnerable as teachers — and could be more
so because of their specific roles in taking care of
children who may be physically disabled or unable to
“We have kids in wheelchairs,” she said. “Who
is going to protect that child? We are. That is a
challenge we have to address.”
Students are also joining the effort to improve
Referring to the gun magazine found at
McGlynn, Medford High School student Justin
Teng told WCVB news, “It was just shocking.
We think we live in a safe community, but after
something like Parkland, this wasn’t the news we
With support from the administration, more than
500 Medford High School students took part in a
school walkout on March 21 to protest gun violence,
and a contingent of students joined the March for
Our Lives rally in Boston on March 24.
Photo by Laura Barrett
Several hundred people attended a special School Committee meeting at Medford High School
on Feb. 22 to hear officials address safety concerns that were raised after a loaded handgun
magazine was found at the McGlynn School in December.