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Pittsfield School Subcommittee to Tackle Safety, Social-Emotional Learning
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
03:18PM / Sunday, February 05, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A school subcommittee focused on social-emotional learning and school safety will meet for the first time on Tuesday. Its creation is fueled by the prevalence of national issues such as school shootings. 

The panel, chaired by Dr. Vicki Smith, a local pediatrician, includes School Committee members Daniel Elias and Alison McGee. Aside from its focus on the safety of students to and from school, it will consider added physical security measures in schools as well as enhancing the complex social-emotional learning environment. 
"The understanding of what constitutes school safety has shifted over the years. When the Transportation and Safety Subcommittee was formed back in the mid-1990s, the key safety issues confronting the Pittsfield Public Schools had to do with students walking or being transported to and from school on safe routes," School Committee Chair William Cameron explained. 
"That remains an important matter for the School Committee but school shootings and violence more generally have become an ever greater concern among educators, parents, and the community at large. Therefore, ensuring the physical safety of staff and students has assumed an unhappily prominent place in school management." 
Moreover, he said, there is a heightened awareness of the importance of students' emotional and social well-being throughout their school experience which became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
"But there also has developed over time a keener perception of the myriad pressures and stresses children and young people are under today, ranging from victimization by bullying to anxiety caused by many factors, some of which the schools can control," Cameron said. 
"It is now better understood that a socially and emotionally supportive environment in school is both conducive to students' well-being and is a necessary condition for every student if that person is to benefit to the fullest, both academically and personally, from what our schools offer those whom we educate." 
The panel was formed last year after several discussions on the areas that subcommittees cover. 
As a group, the committee has been trying to make more active use of subcommittees to dive deeper into topics that come up during regular meetings. 
On Tuesday, it referred a resolution on secure gun storage by national Be SMART for Kids advocacy group to the new SEL and Safety subcommittee. 
"There are members of the community, by community I'm talking about beyond the Pittsfield borders, who are justifiably concerned about school safety as it pertains to guns in particular and their focus is on the safe storage of guns," Cameron said during the committee's regular meeting. 
The proposal, unanimously approved by the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee last month,  states that safety from gun violence is the responsibility of all adult stakeholders in schools. 
It also reports that secure firearm storage practices are associated with an 85 percent reduction in the risk of self-inflicted and unintentional gun injuries among children and teens. 
Cameron pointed to the shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old student earlier this year at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va.
"The fact that a 6-year-old was able to shoot his teacher in an elementary school is evidence that this problem is not one that is dreamed up or is in the abstract," he said. 
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