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Monday, January 22, 2007

Emotions run high as Lincoln-Sudbury Regional reopens

Ritchie.JPG
Lincoln-Sudbury Superintendent John M. Ritchie meets with the media.
(Globe staff photo by Janet Knott)

SUDBURY

Students broke into a spontaneous and sustained applause today inside Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School auditorium, the first gathering since last week's murder of a student by a classmate inside a school bathroom.

"It wasn't for me," school Superintendent John M. Ritchie said to reporters, referring to the applause. "They wanted the school to feel they really love the place."

Last Friday, 16-year-old sophomore John Odgren allegedly stabbed fellow student, 15-year-old James Alenson, to death in a bathroom. Odgren is charged with first degree murder as an adult, has pleaded not guilty and is currently being held in a Department of Youth Services facility in Plymouth. His defense attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, has said Odgren was taking medications for a Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and hyperactivity.

Police kept reporters off school grounds this morning, but officials met with the media. The press conference included the police chiefs of Sudbury and Lincoln.

Without going into specifics, Ritchie was skeptical of claims by students that Odgren had spoken of a desire to commit violence. He suggested the school staff did not hear of that kind of information before last Friday. "Who knows what he said to other students,'' Ritchie said.

Ritchie said he expects the school's security policy and its involvement in the special needs program utilized by Odgren to be closely scrutinized, a process he said he welcomes and supports. "It's totally expected for people to have questions, concerns and fears," he said.

Ritchie said attendance appeared close to normal for the 1,600 student body and that grief counselors, parents and police officers were spread throughout the school's campus. He described the mood as "somber ... right now, we are into grieving."

As he walked the halls, Ritchie said he was frequently embraced by students. "I've gotten more hugs today," he said. "I'm glad I am not germophobic."

Dismissal will be at the regular time today and a regular class schedule is planned for Tuesday. He said the school is still trying to figure how when to begin mid-term exams, originally set for this Thursday.

-- John R. Ellement

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