A Freetown mother of three is facing charges for entering four public schools on Thursday using fake names and wandering the halls while taking video in an effort to shed light on what she deems as weak security measures.
Kayla Farris Churchill, 28, will be charged with disturbing a school assembly, according to a police statement released on Sunday. Investigators said Churchill will be issued a summons to appear in Wareham District Court at a later date, and additional charges are possible.
According to state law, the charge brings the possibility of a month in prison or a fine of up to $50.
Churchill said she entered two elementary schools, an intermediate school, and a high school by giving a false name to front desk staff, then wandered the halls while filming with her phone. Churchill said the stunt wasn’t planned but rather an impulsive, emotional decision.
With two children in the district and a third due to start school next year, Churchill said she was compelled to seek answers about the school system’s security measures after the Uvalde school shooting in May 2022, after her young son questioned whether a similar tragedy could happen at his school.
“He was inconsolable. I told him I’d find out the safety plans so we both know what he should do in an emergency,” Churchill said.
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Churchill attended a school council meeting, where she expressed concern and offered security suggestions that she said administrators more or less dismissed. Churchill said Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District officials urged her to go to Freetown Elementary School to see recent security improvements for herself.
But to Churchill’s surprise, she said was easily able to gain access to the school despite giving a fake name. She also said she observed a propped-open door at the school’s entrance. About an hour after that incident, Churchill said she decided to test the other schools’ ease of entry.
“I was driving, and my mind starts racing, and I thought, ‘Jeez my kid is there. Could this happen again?’” she said.
Churchill said she headed to the district’s other elementary school, Assawompsett Elementary, and was shocked to again gain entry into the school by giving a fake student name — “Carlos Monteiro.” Churchill said nobody from the front desk stopped her when she stood in the lobby for up to a minute.
“I just stood there thinking, ‘Please somebody, say something to me. Call the police, tackle me, something.’ And nobody’s doing anything,” Churchill said. “I thought, ‘This is crazy. I’m going to see how far I can take it,” then proceeded to wander the halls while videotaping.
Churchill said she left the elementary school and called the superintendent as she drove to the district’s intermediary school with a similar plan. He put her in touch with the Freetown Elementary school principal, who, according to Churchill, spoke to her for 45 minutes and apologized for “human error.” After that call, Churchill said she entered the George R. Austin Intermediate School using the fake name “Jess Rowan,” only this time, she said confronted a front desk staff member about how easily she could enter with a fake name.
Finally, Churchill headed to the nearby Apponequet Regional High School, where she said that she wandered the halls for nearly half an hour, taking video with her phone and engaging a female student who asked who she was and why she was recording. She eventually surrendered to a gym teacher, saying, “I’m an intruder, and I’ve been here for 25 minutes. You should probably call the authorities.”
Freetown-Lakeville Superintendent Alan J. Strauss told Boston.com he couldn’t comment on the details of the incident as police investigate the matter, but said school officials will work to strengthen security protocols and retrain staff.
“Our district has always had established safety protocols in place,” Strauss said in an email. “This parent was allowed to enter buildings without all of those protocols being effectively enforced and we will continue to work closely with local law enforcement and town officials to strengthen and enhance all safety and security protocols while also retraining all in-place staff.”
The incident has drawn a mix of ire and awe from the community — particularly from parents who say that while they agree the schools need better security measures in place, they are upset with Churchill’s method.
Kimberly Marshman, a Lakeville mother of two kids in the district, said she was shocked and disturbed by Thursday’s incident.
“I think [Churchill] could have found a better way to raise awareness. Creating chaos in schools is not how you create lasting changes in policy,” said Marshman, adding that she’d like to see Churchill charged for trespassing and filming minors without parental consent.
“We teach our children that your actions have consequences; where are [Churchill’s] consequences?” asked Marshman.
Carolyn Chiruna Bosader, whose daughter is a high school senior at Apponequet, said she does feel there should be more stringent security measures at the schools, but that she disagrees with how Churchill went about making her point.
“It’s terrifying when you have kids. That’s their safe space. And [front desk staffers] do get busy, I understand,” Bosader said. “I feel like there’s a better way she could’ve gone about it without creeping around the kids. Maybe if she walked in and just hung out in a hallway, she didn’t have to interact with the kids.”
When asked about angering parents in the district, Churchill said she’s happy to talk to fellow parents and explain her actions, though she said, “the vast majority” of the parents she’s heard from have been supportive.
“I didn’t think this was going to happen,” said Churchill. “I was hoping the schools would just listen to me when I said, ‘Hey, we need to do something.’ I hope now they do something. I didn’t do anything with ill intent. I did this to bring awareness.”