5th grader wins Peabody school safety hashtag contest | News | #schoolsaftey

PEABODY — A McCarthy Elementary School student will have her hashtag featured in the city’s campaign to promote safety awareness after winning a competition between all fifth-graders in Peabody schools.

Meghan Foley was chosen by the Peabody School Safety Task Force’s Student Education Committee for her hashtag, “#safeandstrong,” which will be connected to all of the task force’s initiatives and committees, according to a statement from the task force.

“This hashtag was chosen as it embodies and demonstrates safety as it relates to people, traffic, school buses as well as anti-bullying;” Maria Champigny, a Peabody school adjustment counselor and Student Education Committee member, said in the statement.

“We are so proud of Meghan and the beginning of this city wide initiative to create positive change in our community,” Champigny said.

Officially started in January, the School Safety Task Force is a coalition of Peabody officials, parents and concerned residents who came together following a number of traffic incidents near schools in the city that injured students or risked their safety.

The task force aims to educate drivers and students, fix problematic crossing areas and hold those who violate traffic rules in school zones accountable.

The committee gave out blue wristbands with the new hashtag on them to all fifth graders on their tour of Higgins Middle School, in partnership with the Peabody Education Foundation. Their families also received handouts with safety tips to follow when walking, biking and riding the school bus.

“This was an excellent contest, which promoted safety awareness while engaging our students, and their creativity, in the process,” said West Memorial Elementary School Assistant Principal Harolyn Fucile, who is also on the Student Education Committee.

Maria Scheri, a parent of a Peabody student who works for North of Boston Media Group, which includes The Salem News, started the task force and a push to put cameras on school bus arms this fall after a woman and her two daughters were struck while crossing Lynn Street in September.

While that incident didn’t involve a school bus, Scheri and other parents have seen cars pass buses and nearly hit students, despite the buses having their stop signs out and lights flashing.

There isn’t a law on the books in Massachusetts that allows districts to add cameras to school buses that would help catch these violators. However, Peabody has contracted with the company BusPatrol to add these cameras to about 10 of its buses starting in September for free, Mayor Ted Bettencourt said at a May 30 School Committee meeting.

The footage from these cameras couldn’t be used to issue citations to drivers. Instead, the footage would collect data on how frequently vehicles pass stopped school buses — data which would support bills proposed on Beacon Hill to increase the penalties of passing school buses and allow cameras to catch violators.

The School Committee also voted last month to send proposed legislation on the issue to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, so that the organization may also put its support behind the proposals.

“Unfortunately, this is what it’s going to take to become safer around our schools, around our school buses: fines and the ability for our police and safety departments to be able to act upon (violations),” School Committee member Jon Swanson said at the meeting.

Contact Caroline Enos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

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