Holden Officials Call For More Communication After School Incident

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Following an incident at Dawson Elementary School, Holden officials are looking to see increased communication during emergency situations.
Following an incident at Dawson Elementary School, Holden officials are looking to see increased communication during emergency situations.

HOLDEN, Mass. —  Holden town officials are hoping to develop better communication procedures with the school district for emergency situations after a brief scare Wednesday, when news spread via parents and social media that Dawson Elementary School was possibly on lockdown.

Holden Police were called to the school Wednesday when a distraught woman was allowed into the school among parents attending the annual holiday concert around 11 a.m., according to Wachusett Regional School District superintendent Anthony Gasbarro.

"Though there was nothing overtly threatening about her actions, her demeanor caused office staff to feel uncomfortable and she was escorted outside," he explained in a Connect-Ed call that went out to parents at 4 p.m. "I believe strongly that these actions were appropriate and necessary as our first priority is always to keep our students and staff safe. I would like to commend the staff at Dawson Elementary School and the Holden police for their careful handling of this incident."

While the school was not officially under lockdown, a "Shelter in Place" was called and while students were sheltered in their classrooms, parents attending the concert were instructed to stay in the gym until the police were satisfied that no threat was present.

Holden Selectman Bob Lavigne said information shared with town and public safety officials about the incident was unclear. The first report relayed to him was an email from the town manager saying the school was not on lockdown.

"Then I got calls from people who were inside saying that the principal made the call to lock the school down," he said.

Posts on Facebook about the incident also differed.

"As good as social media sites can be, they can start rumors," said Lavigne. "I'm a big believer in trying to get out in front of things with the truth."

While the selectman praised the handling of the situation inside the school, looking forward he hoped to see the communication process fine-tuned.

"We need to build a better process to increase communication, first off with our front-line responders so that they know what they're going into, and secondly to the parents, so that everyone feels more at ease," said Lavigne.

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Comments (15)

The three things you mention that the NRA agrees with are already federally regulated thats why they agree with them as it gives up nothing. Like I said do some research.

There is an assault weapons ban? There's no gun show loophole on background checks? Those high capacity magazines are unavailable?

Finally you are coming up on your research. But you only found a couple. You also talked about "weapons of war". But I will bet that you haven't found the legal definition of "assault weapon". Anyway you found loopholes which clearly indicates regulation for without regulation there can be no loophole. So I will stand by my statement that we need to be thoughtful and deliberate and a little smarter rather than "hysterical" otherwise we do no better than what we have. Did you know that the Sidwell School in D.C. has 11 armed guards in a place that already has a total ban. Oh I forgot they are watching out for the law abiding citizens.....When you purchase a weapon you must present a valid government issued permit said permit is not issued without a background check.


There are at least three practical measures that most NRA members agree with. Regulate weapons of war, the size of magazine clips, and institute background checks on the purchase of all guns. This isn't "feel good'' or "knee jerk" ; it is reasonable.

We can improve technology to make schools safer and pass sensible gun control at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. Passing these laws will cost money? Okay. Remember how you dared impugn my motives, saying maybe I didn't think the children were worth the effort of your technology fix? I do think the children and others who will lose their lives to future gun violence are worth the money.

The next shooting may take place at a mall or a movie theater or a parking lot. Your buzzer won't help there. Ask the people of Newtown how they feel about sensible gun control.

By the way, you know nothing about me. I've been on this "bandwagon" a very long time. You know nothing of my efforts.

Again you missed the point(is it hysteria), I was not advocating for or against weapons of any kind. PERIOD. What I was promoting was school safety that can be implemented inexpensively and relatively fast. Thats all. You are seeking to expand the topic with little to no knowledge of the facts. This is a trait that you exhibit frequently on this forum. You never let the facts interfere with your views. While I may not know much about you, you do reveal much about yourself in these forums. I do not seek to denigrate anyone for thier views. This is still a free country. But I will not hesitate to "call someone out" when facts are twisted or a bullying attitude is presented. Your hysteria presents itself again when you talk about the next shooting. I do believe changes need to be made relative to controlling weapons. These changes will not occur overnight and will be done in a thoughtful process based on facts and statistics otherwise they have little hope of being made. Criminals or mentally deficient individuals do not obey rules and regulations no matter what they may be so I think we have to be smarter and more deliberate in what we do.

The argument about "assault weapons" or "large capacity clips" is generally put forth incorrectly. Anyone vaguely familiar with guns knows how to change clips in less than 4 seconds. One can also be "assaulted" with a pair of scissors with deadly consequences. So do we have to remove them from art class. Mr. White has put forth, by far, the most sensible solution to enhanced security and explained why it would work in almost every situation. It is clearly the ounce of prevention being better than the "ton" of cure. It seems to me that he has thought this out long before the current tragedy occurred and has not embraced the "feel good" calls for legislation banning this or that which will, as proven by history, not work. Whereas his solution is inexpensive and proven to be effective in numerous private enterprises. I incorporated a secure vestibule that people would be "buzzed" into but still be isolated from access to the facility and be fully observed by virtue of glass panels while being provided with a telephone to state the nature of thier visit and the person they are visiting. The person they have business with greets them in the vestibule and cannot bring them into the facility until it is proven neccessary. I don't mention any details of constuction of this vestibule or materials used as this is proprietary information. I am sure Mr. White has knowledge of or access to what would comprise the bill of materials for such construction.

One can be assaulted by scissors with deadly consequences for sure. I seriously doubt though that 26 people could be stabbed to death in a matter of a few minutes. In fact, as others have mentioned, a man in China stabbed something like 23 people in a rampage at almost the same time as the shootings at Sandy Hook. Not one of the stabbing victims died.

We don't have to remove scissors from art class. Scissors have a legitimate purpose. What purpose does a weapon of war have in the hands of civilians?
What is it for?

I'm not debating for or against weapons of any kind. My point, which you obviously missed, was to do something that works to keep kids safe rather than pursue something that happens to be easy to blame and makes me feel self rightous along with restricting many law abiding folks from rights in the second amendment. More people/children are killed or seriously maimed by drunk drivers in this country but we still don't have laws nearly as strict as many other western countries. I would much rather expend money and effort on proven technologies than the "feel good"/"kneejerk reactions" that you seem to embrace. Do some research before jumping on the first bandwagon that comes along. Or don't you think the kids deserve that much effort on your part.

But the really nice part is this technology is readily available and doesn't need an act of congress to implement. It has been available for many many years but I guess it's just not newsworthy or inflamatory enough to the masses so we don't use it and people die. So lets just pass another law that will somehow cost us more(any time the Gov't does anything it always costs us more) just like the TSA at the airports that only makes the very foolish feel safer.

Name Withheld and others, Improving school security and access should and could be done. This should not be in the form of armed “security” it should be with technology. There is a onetime cost of technology and a long term cost of “armed security”. Not to mention that armed security is not a good form of security to start with. This creates a confrontation situation where technology is prevention.

The new Mountview building is being designed with a state of the art security and access system. So if your true desire is to provide the best security for our kids possible I would thing people like Name Withheld would be in support of the Mountview project. My guess it is just another feeble attempt from the voices to distract from the fact that they are opposed to Mountview at any cost.

The voices will continue to use smoke and mirrors and distractions to attempt to confuse the public into not knowing what day of the week it is. This is all in an attempt to defeat a project that the voices want to defeat at all costs!

Here we go, conflating two unrelated issues: school safety and the Mountview project.

Not the speed of light. The Mountview Building Committee has been working for a year or more.

As for an armed security officer at each school? Making school an armed camp is not the answer. Get rid of assault weapons in the hands of civilians. Get rid of monster magazine clips. Do background checks on everyone who purchases a gun. Those are the recommendations of most law enforcement officials not just supporters of sensible gun control.

Your concern for school safety is touching....also exploitative because the purpose of your post is to sink the Mountview project.

How? The parents were probably using technology while the incident was in progress. Do you stop them from texting or phoning? Do you tell them what you don't yet know? How could the person making the call have clear information in an unfolding situation such as this?

It sounds to me as if everyone in authority both in the school and in law enforcement acted responsibly.


Here's a more pressing consideration:

We the residents of Holden are now being told that it is absolutely imperative that we push forward at e speed of light and build a new middle school which will cost us how many tens of millions of dollars

How many years of having an armed security officer protecting each school in town would this pay for?

Lets think this out: The town need not even pay for a salaried, benefitted police officer for this. It could retain, for instance, a 35 hour per week contracted retired police officer, a part time police officer or cadet going through the academy, a retired military police officer etc. ideally the position would be from a fellow town resident. Or perhaps two part time positions to fill these hours.

At $20/ hr, this would thus cost roughly $700 per school per week. In other words, $35k a year.

How many schools are in town ? Is it five ?

Tis translates to the sum of about $175,000 per year.

But, let's say instead that like almost all governmental entities nowadays would demand, the Town maintains that it absolutely must be a salaried, benefitted town employee at each such position. The cost of benefits, pensions employment administration etc would likely raise this amount to some $350.000 a year.

Lets not even stop there. Let's say that with some more associated costs, it will be $500,000 a year, again assuming the likely scenario that the Town leaders will adamantly maintain that this "must be a full town employee position"

This means that if the new Mountview school is going to cost us "just" some $25 million (ie half the cost after state's contribution) (a rather unlikely scenario, as my guess is it will be closer to $30 million, possibly more), this same amount would pay for, even under the far more expensive full town salaried position scenario outlined above, fully FIFTY YEARS of school security at every school in town.

So choose wisely, people of Holden.

The safety of our children is at stake.

I suggest we do everything we humanly can to take every step we possibly can to see to it that what happened in Newtown CT never happens here.

And unless we start demanding a very real, very frank discussion of the above, instead of focusing only on things like "enhanced communication" (whenever they really means) we are doing little other than kidding ourselves....

And our children.

This has to be one of the most foolish posts I have ever read. These voices will continue to cloud and distract from what the discussions should be about.

Keep trying to confuse people although my bet is the people of Holden are smart and will not listen to these types of foolish posts!

Name Withheld,

You represent everything that is wrong with our society and the the rest of Edwin's mouthpieces.

Crawl back under your rock.