A Berkshire Eagle Special Report: How safe are our schools?

Berkshire County schools taking part in National School Walkout on March 14


The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla., have raised their voices nationally in a call for measures to reduce gun violence and school shootings. Their activism in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at their school has inspired people around the country, including the young people of Berkshire County. A national school walkout has been called for Wednesday and students at a number of local schools have planned demonstrations.

Related: PHS, Taconic walkout, speak minds in wake of Florida school shooting (Feb. 27)

Eagle reporters connected with some students and school administrators as they organized action. There are more likely in the works.


ADAMS - Some students at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School are planning to join the National School Walkout on Wednesday March 14 in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

According to BART sophomore and organizer Johnyce Lanphear-Dyer, 16, the idea garnered a lot of support quickly through postings on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.

Since then it's been a race to settle all the details.

"We're just trying to cover all the bases so nobody gets in trouble," she said. The plan is to march with signs in front of the school and at the park across the street from the school.

"We want everyone included, even the middle school students," Lanphear-Dyer said. "Anyone who wants to be a part of this, is welcome to join us."

Expressions of support for the walkout have come from teachers and the student government.

"We know this is the right thing to be doing," Lanphear-Dyer said.

BART Principal April West said the school cannot officially take a stand in a political issue, but it is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of students who choose to take part in the walkout.

"There are no school personnel organizing the walkout," West said. "However, school leadership at BART actively supports our students in exercising their freedom of speech."

She said the school will also set up a location to stay for students who do not want to participate.

"We have made ourselves available to student leaders who have questions about organizing the walkout," West noted. "We will not be disciplining or issuing consequences to any students who want to participate in the walkout."

—Scott Stafford

Berkshire Hills

GREAT BARRINGTON — Berkshire Hills Regional High School students will participate in the national school walkout on March 14 at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence and call for better protection of students.

"Anyone who is passionate about this issue is invited to join us in walking out of the building and down the hill onto the field, where we will stay for 17 minutes — to honor the lives of the 17 people who lost their lives at the Florida shooting," said Claudia Maurino, a Monument Valley Regional High School student and one of about 10 protest organizers at her school.

Maurino said the walkout will serve two purposes: to honor the lives lost and put out a call to action.

"We're upset at the way this issue is being handled," she said, "and we're no longer willing to be silent about it."

Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon said the district is supporting students in their demonstration and will not discipline participants. Dillon, staff, and faculty have been coordinating with students to ensure the protest is organized and safe.

Maurino said she hopes the demonstration will cause reflection in the community.

"This gives people the opportunity to think about the issue and to really enunciate to themselves their opinion and position," she said.

Additional rallies and demonstrations may be planned on school safety and gun control for Berkshire Hills, said Stella Bellow, a student protest organizer. (Stella Bellow is the daughter of Eagle reporter Heather Bellow).

— Kristin Palpini

Richmond Consolidated School

RICHMOND — Sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students at Richmond Consolidated School will take part in the national solidarity walkout on Wednesday morning at 10, one month following the high school shooting rampage in Parkland, Fla.

Principal Monica Zanin reported that she met with students to plan the 17-minute walkout to honor the victims of the tragedy and to "advocate for a safe place to learn."

— Clarence Fanto

Nessacus Regional Middle School

DALTON — "We realize that our students, as they progress from middle school to high school, are beginning to establish opinions and a voice on matters like the tragedy in Parkland Florida," said Nessacus Middle School Principal Peter Falkowski in an email to The Eagle. "We will be working with student council and all other interested students and staff to plan middle school appropriate activities for [Wednesday], which is the day when people across the country are marking as a day to hold events designed to inspire unity."

— Patricia LeBoeuf

Wahconah Regional High School

After February vacation, school administrators met with elected class officers to discuss what should happen in response to the Parkland shooting and other instances of school violence.

Principal Aaron M. Robb said everyone "was in agreement that our school should take part in the nationwide event on March 14th raising awareness about school safety.

"Therefore our school will be supporting those students who sign up in advance to leave class and take part in a social justice event planned for March 14 at 10 a.m.," said Robb.

— Patricia LeBoeuf


As the town's public schools enhance existing security measures following the Valentine's Day massacre that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, local students will take part in a 17-minute national solidarity demonstration on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Although the district is not officially sponsoring a demonstration, said Schools Superintendent Timothy Lee, "we do realize it will be the wishes of many students and probably many staff to express themselves on that day."

At Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, and to a lesser extent at Morris Elementary School, he explained, there's a plan "to accommodate folks who wish to do that." At LMMHS, the administration will offer "a safe place to do it" as well as providing for students who prefer not to take part in a 17-minute walkout from classes, he noted.

"The trickiest part, in my opinion, is that this demonstration or show of solidarity is real and people are expressing themselves based on personal convictions," Lee told The Eagle. "But we also need to realize that there might be students and staff members who don't feel strongly about participating. We certainly don't want to be in a position of forcing them to participate if they don't feel strongly."

The location of the demonstration will be worked out by the LMMHS administration, Lee stated. "They know their school best and they know where their students would be safest in doing this, whether it's the parking lot, the back field or the Duffin Theater," he noted. "I'm going to leave that up to them to decide."

Students who choose not to take part will be accommodated in several designated locations with staff supervision, such as a study hall.

According to Assistant Principal Brian Cogswell, safety concerns and weather conditions will determine the decision by students Wednesday morning on the final space for the event. As a safety precaution, the campus will be closed except for school personnel, he stated.

—Clarence Fanto

North Adams

Drury High School students are also expected to participate in the nationwide event.

North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas and Mayor Thomas Bernard plan to join the students for the planned walkout Wednesday.

"We are aware of this and have been meeting with the students to plan the event so that it is safe and voluntary. Both the mayor and I plan to be present and support our students," Malkas said. "This has been an opportunity to engage with students regarding civic responsibility."

Bernard said he and Malkas began to discuss the topic fairly early as they saw the national movement begin to grow.

"It is a moment for their voices and their energy but I also want them to know that they will be heard," Bernard said.

— Adam Shanks


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