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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Task force to search for answers in Lincoln-Sudbury slaying

NewRitchie.jpg
Superintendent and Principal John Ritchie wrote a letter to parents at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School saying he was ready for "tough questions" about last Friday’s fatal stabbing at school.
(Globe Staff Photo by Janet Knott)

LINCOLN-SUDBURY

Principal John Ritchie plans tonight to announce the formation of a team of town officials, school administrators, and local police to review last week's fatal stabbing at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School that left one student dead and another facing a first-degree murder charge.

Ritchie, who is also superintendent of the regional high school system, sent a letter home to parents that said that the school must, "review this tragedy, and determine what we need to, or can, learn from it."

Officials plan to make the announcement at a community meeting that will include school committee members, public safety officials, and Middlesex District Attorney Gerald T. Leone Jr. The meeting, at 7:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium in Sudbury, promises to bring difficult questions about school safety and early warning signs the accused killer may have shown when he attended Caldwell Alternative School in Fitchburg.

"Don't hold back your questions, even if they are tough ones," Ritchie wrote in the letter to parents. He added: "I don't view people asking tough questions of us, or wanting answers, or wanting to know clearly what steps we are planning on taking, or expressing anger, as being unsupportive.

"It is natural, understandable," Ritchie continued. "I -- as a parent myself -- would feel I'm sure many of the same fears and doubts as you may be feeling after what happened on Friday."

Prosecutors charged 16-year-old John Odgren with first-degree murder after they allege he stabbed James F. Alenson, 15, in a bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury early last Friday morning. Odgren pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The community and the students have rallied together, Ritchie told parents in the letter, and have leaned on each other.

"In profound ways, your children have helped me and us get through these past days, and I am deeply sorry that they have had to deal with something that no one should have to deal with," the letter says.

Regardless, Ritchie wrote that the school needs to examine its programs, policies, practices, and procedures with "unblinking eyes to determine what, if anything we've learned, and what we can or should do differently."

-- Andrew Ryan

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