LAKEVILLE — Police said on Monday that a Freetown woman has charges headed her way after she reportedly took it upon herself to test out the integrity of school security at Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District, successfully gaining entry to two school buildings using false names.
According to a letter, signed by Superintendent Alan Strauss and sent out to families on Thursday, the parent — whom news reports identify as Kayla Farris Churchill, 28, of Freetown — successfully gained entry to Assawompset Elementary School and Apponequet Regional High School; and attempted to enter Freetown Elementary School. "This parent provided an incorrect name, and an incorrect student name, attempting to determine the ease of access into our buildings," the letter reads.
"At ARHS, the parent spoke to several of our students and at least one staff member — The staff member reported the trespass to building leadership immediately.
"No students were known to be engaged at AES. Our investigation will gather detailed statements to provide an accurate accounting of what was said and this will determine next steps.
"At FES the parent was not able to gain entry into the building."
The letter reads that at Assawompset Elementary School and Apponequet Regional High School, both located in Lakeville, "the parent was buzzed in and did not go directly to the office, as is the protocol, and walked through the building."
Churchill has told media outlets that her actions on Thursday came after she'd expressed concerns over school security to district administrators the day before, to which they reportedly suggested she visit Freetown Elementary School too see recent security upgrades there firsthand, including a new vestibule security window. She also told reporters of a recent conversation she'd had with one of her children over worries prompted by the deadly May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Lakeville police: Charges forthcoming
On Monday, Lakeville police provided a statement pertaining only to the reported security breach at Apponequet Regional High School, saying: "She allegedly bypassed the main office and began approaching and speaking to students and a staff member. The staff member reported the woman to building leadership, who immediately notified the school resource officer.
"The woman, 28, of Freetown, will be charged with Disturbing a School Assembly and Trespassing, and will be issued a summons to appear in Wareham District Court at a later date." Lakeville police noted a criminal complaint had not yet been filed in court and that the incident remained under investigation.
Freetown police dispatch told The Standard-Times on Monday that the Freetown Police Department had already concluded an investigation relative to any activity at Freetown Elementary School, and were not seeking charges.
In a media statement, Freetown-Lakeville central office wrote that the parent "posed no safety risk to any student or staff member at any time."
What the district is doing
On Sunday, Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District administration sent out a follow-up message to families, which is also posted to the district website, outlining the district's responsive actions in the days that followed Thursday's incidents. "Over the past two days we had lengthy phone calls with the Police Chiefs and various town officials and the meetings were collaborative and productive," that letter reads, noting that discussion topics included individual school protocols, security "vestibules needing to be secured, such as we did at FES," no trespassing signs being clearly visible, and the purchase of a visitor ID program, among others.
"Our safety protocols and procedures are only as strong as the consistency and vigor we apply to them and we must do a better job moving forward. And we will."
The letter — signed by Strauss — also notes that on Friday afternoon, parents should have received updated visitor protocol plans for their children's individual schools.
In the administration's media statement, Freetown-Lakeville central office wrote, "The District is in the process of working closely with law enforcement and retraining school staff in order to strengthen and enhance all safety and security protocols."
Feedback from local parents
On social media, discourse around Thursday's incidents showed both approval and disapproval of the mother's actions, with a number of individuals expressing mixed feelings about it. One parent told The Standard-Times she empathized with Churchill.
"I'm glad she did it because it made us parents aware how unsafe our schools are," said Kerry Lynn, mother of an Assawompset Elementary School student and two Freetown-Lakeville Middle School students. "I guess she has been trying to say it wasn't safe but nobody was listening to her so she took it upon herself and proved she was correct."
The charges: What the law says
According to Mass. General Laws, Section 272, "Whoever willfully interrupts or disturbs an assembly of people meeting for a lawful purpose shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 1 month or by a fine of not more than $50."
On the charge of trespassing, Mass. General Laws, Section 120 carries a fine of "not more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both such fine and imprisonment."
On Tuesday, Churchill responded to The Standard-Times to say her attorney, Kevin Reddington, had advised her to direct any further media inquiries to him. Reddington recently represented former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia in his high-profile corruption case.
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Freetown-Lakeville mom who exposed school security lapse to be charged