School committee hears options to limit traffic speed around ELHS

EAST LONGMEADOW – East Longmeadow Public Schools (ELHS) Superintendent Gordon Smith informed the school committee that he had recently met with City Manager Mary McNally, Deputy City Manager Tom Christensen, Chief Constable Mark Wolliams and DPW Superintendent Bruce Feeney to discuss traffic volume and speeds on the roads behind the high school, particularly on Marshall Street.

For six days in September, an electronic sign was placed on Chestnut Street, just past the intersection with Marshall Street. In addition to warning drivers to slow down, it also collected data on the number of vehicles and their speed, Smith said. He reported that while the average speed of vehicles approaching the stop sign was 21.9 mph, the top speed was 66 mph.

Smith said the sign will be put back in the same location for six consecutive days, according to the DPW schedule, to determine if traffic is as heavy and fast moving now that Maple Street construction is complete. School committee member Elizabeth Marsian-Boucher noted that people slow down when they see the sign, which could skew the data.

Other methods to discourage speeding that Smith said he discussed with city officials included increasing police patrols and speed checks. Marsian-Boucher suggested installing soundtracks to alert drivers who may not be paying attention to their speed. Smith said stop signs are regulated by the federal Department of Transportation and would be much more difficult to implement.

The committee focused on changes to district policies based on suggestions from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. The majority of the changes concerned the use of language.

For example, in the Anti-Bullying Policy, the use of the word “victim” to describe someone who is being bullied has been replaced with the word “target”. Similarly, the term “perpetrator” for those who had participated in the bullying was changed to “aggressor”. The use of the word “parent” in the policy has been changed to “parent/guardian” to better include all families.

Smith pointed out that while many incidents are reported as bullying, the behavior might not fit the state’s definition of the act. Chapter 71, Section 370 of the Massachusetts General Laws defines bullying in schools as “repeated written, verbal, or electronic expression or physical act or gesture” that “causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to victim’s property; places the victim in a reasonable fear of injury or damage to property; creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; infringes the rights of the victim at school or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the proper functioning of a school”. Students, faculty, administration, staff, or others may be either the target of bullying or the aggressor depending on the state’s definition.

“It does not mean that the behavior that took place was acceptable. It just means it wasn’t bullying,” Smith pointed out and said the consequences were still in place.

The district accepted two donations for the Spartan Walkway on the campus of East Longmeadow High School (ELHS). Resident Richard Thibeault donated $175, while Michaelene Kelley donated $100.
Part of the donations will pay for an engraved brick for the walkway, while the rest of the money will go to the ELHS account.