By Christopher Huffaker Globe Staff,Updated September 11, 2023
The victim of a shooting last fall outside of Dorchester’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School filed alawsuit Thursday againstthe city and school officials, alleging they failed to follow security protocols and therefore prevent the shooting.
The complaint made against the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, Superintendent Mary Skipper, and Burke principal Amilcar Silvaclaims someone was able to bring a gun into the school, despite the Burke having metal detectors meant to stop weapons from entering. Had staff properly used the metal detectors to stop that person from bringing a weapon onto campus, the shooting could have been prevented, according to the lawsuit.
“In a way, everyone’s lucky that nobody was killed, but that does not diminish the seriousness of what happened,” said Matthew Fogelman, the lawyer who is representing the victim, as well as his mother, Melanie Bland, and two siblings, all three of whom were fired upon but not hit.
District spokesman Max Baker said the district does not comment on ongoing litigation.
The shooting occurred just outside the building, on the school’s premisesat approximately 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2022. According to both the lawsuit and a redacted police report, the 18-year-old victim and his 16-year-old brother were walking toward their mother’s car when the shooter approached and fired at them, hitting the victim twice in the stomach.
The lawsuit alleges the shooter was inside the school and exited with the gun. The police report said a staff member “had the suspect stopped in front of the school,” before he ran toward the victim and his brother and began shooting.
The victim was hospitalized for over two weeks and has required ongoing treatment, according to the lawsuit. The victim’s mother and 3-year-old sister were in the car, which the lawsuit says was hit by at least one bullet.
According to the lawsuit, the victim’s mother came to the school to pick the victim up early to attend a funeral. While she was on her way, it continues, the victim called her to say he did not feel safe because another student was “threatening him and saying he could not leave.” The lawsuit names that student as thealleged shooter. Police did not release the name of the suspect because he was a juvenile at the time. Because the alleged shooter was a juvenile, the status of the criminal case is unclear.
According to the police report, a witness told police they saw the two brothers fighting outside the school with the suspected shooter prior tothe shooting.
All four family members are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The lawsuit asks for damages to compensate the family for their injuries, medical expenses, and emotional distress, among other things.
Bland called on the district to provide better protection for students and said she hopes the lawsuit will prompt it into action.
“I just want everybody to be safe and I want us to try to get our life back to normalcy as much as possible,” Bland said in an interview with the Globe on Monday. “It’ll probably never be normal again, but I’d like to think my kids can go to school and not worry.”
Though not all BPS schools have metal detectors, the Burke does, and staff search students’ bags when they enter. The lawsuit alleges that those protocols are not followed at all times.
The lawsuit said the school’s failure to properly use the metal detectors after 8:30 a.m. allowed the shooter to possess a firearm in the building without detection.
That failure, the lawsuit notes, occurred even after a student was stabbed at the schoolthree weeks prior.In that incident, a student was hospitalized after being stabbed multiple times inside the school, and a fellow student was arrested and charged.
The lawsuit called the failure to prevent a second incident “egregious,” as the stabbing “should have resulted in immediate changes and improvements to the school’s security and safety protocols.”
Baker said the district does not disclose the specific security measures of its schools, but shared general information on district security procedures.
The use of metal detectors is up to individual school communities. According to a district memo on their use, “The school security plan should make provisions for all building entrances and access ways to have adult physical presence throughout the school day to ensure a secure environment.”