Our Opinion: Front lines in fight for safe schools

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On Tuesday's editorial page, The Eagle applauded young people in Berkshire County for joining their peers around the world in advancing the fight against climate change. ("A vested interest in climate crisis," Eagle, Sept. 24). Today we encourage students, like those at Drury High School, to expand their efforts to protect the safety of they and their classmates in their school buildings.

A group of student leaders at the North Adams school are joining their counterparts throughout the state in a program designed to teach them to recognize signs of violence among their peers.("Keeping a 'promise' to make schools safe," Eagle, Sept. 24.) The $1 million federally funded program is a partnership of the state attorney general's office and Sandy Hook Promise, a group formed in the aftermath of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of students and teachers in Newtown, Conn. Attorney General Maura Healey and Mark Barden, co-founder and codirector of Sandy Hook Promise, were on hand Monday to meet with the Drury students. Mr. Barden's son Daniel was one of the 20 students killed in Newtown.

After so many deadly school shootings, the shooters are often describe as loners, detached from the student body, isolated, resentful. The Drury students will be trained to look out for warning signs that could represent mental illness, reach out to isolated students, and encourage them to seek help. "We're trying to empower the people on the front lines and that's all of you," said AG Healey to the students Monday.

Drury was an obvious choice for the program as it had already started a "Start With Hello" program to encourage students to reach out to socially isolated students. The school has a "No One Eats Alone" program at lunch  every Tuesday but senior Isabel Lescarbeau said it should be done on a daily basis.

This program should have benefits for unhappy students who will never be prone to violence while perhaps heading off violent incidents. But schools — and malls, places of business and concerts — will never be safe from gun violence as long as too many weapons are in the hands of too many people who shouldn't have access to them. Last month, the March for Our Lives effort was begun by student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students lost their lives to a gunman in February 2018. Among other provisions, they call for a ban on assault weapons, background checks for purchasers, and establishment of a national registration and licensing system encouraging responsible gun ownership.

The students responded to the latest cave-in from President Trump, who have originally promising new gun control measures went back to wrapping himself in the Second Amendment. Courts have ruled that guns can be regulated without threatening hunters and legitimate gun owners but the NRA won't give in and neither will its kept politicians.

Dramatic changes in gun laws will require dramatic change at the top in Washington. In the interim, there is much that can be done at the state level and in local communities and schools, as Drury's students are demonstrating.



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