PHS Students Step Up To Stop East Street Jaywalking

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Student Council members Shannon Conroy and Kirsi Leminen and Principal Matthew Bishop told the Police Advisory Committee that they are working to solve the issue of jaywalking in front of PHS.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The threat of taking away off-campus lunches has so far proven to deter jaywalking.

Since an issue of jaywalking in front of Pittsfield High School made headlines, the school has made an internal push to change the culture, according to Principal Matthew Bishop.

Bishop addressed the Police Advisory Committee on Monday to tell them that the school is making in-roads on addressing the problem.

He told the committee that the school has been sending three supervisors out with the students — including Vice Principal Henry Duval, who walks the students across the street.

Bishop said they are changing the norm of the students, partly under the threat of taking away the privilege of leaving the school for lunch.

"I don't think there is a kid in the school who doesn't know to use the crosswalk," Bishop said of the push to make students aware of the problems.

But it isn't the administration taking the lead. Student Council members Shannon Conroy and Kirsi Leminen has been taking the lead in spreading awareness of the possibility of losing the lunch privilege.

The council has been trying to make a difference on that front for years, including painting the crosswalks, and had previously asked for more signage, Leminen said.

The message was made very clear after the issue became a hot topic earlier this fall. While some students don't like to feel they are being "babied" by having adults escorting them, the presence of authority has straightened many students out, according to Conroy.

Leminen said students don't want to lose their right to leave the campus and the threat has made them aware of the issues jaywalking is causing to traffic and drivers. If the adults weren't there anymore, the students told the committee they believe the majority of their classmates would continue to use the crosswalks appropriately.

"When there is an adult there or any authority there, it makes a difference," Leminen said.

They said some students still don't care about breaking the law by crossing outside the designated walks, but that is no different from the majority of residents, as police officials noted.

While the school is using staff to keep an extra eye on the students, School Resource Officer Russell Quetti is helping to alleviate the traffic issues. Bishop said this school year, he has only seen one significant traffic backup. The rest of the time, Quetti is moving traffic along — from parents parking out front to getting the buses onto East Street.

The school is also looking at staggered dismissals and other such solutions but is being careful not to cause any unintended consequences.

Nonetheless, the student awareness was good news for the committee.

"The kids are starting to realize that there could be consequences," said Sheriff Thomas Bowler, a committee member.

Chairman Alan Righi reminded the students that while they seem to be making progress, the committee is still keeping an eye on the issue.

"We're trying to find some kind of solution to make it better," Righi said.

But, "if things are moving smoothly, that makes everybody happy."

Tags: jaywalking,   PHS,   Pittsfield Police,   

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