School safety, cannabis equity on Boston Council's 2023 agenda

The Boston City Council on Wednesday filed over 40 motions, orders and resolutions that will shape the body's hearing calendar and agenda as it moves into the new year. Among them are orders to establish a climate change curriculum in Boston Public Schools, put up contraception and menstrual product vending machines throughout the city, and to diversify Boston's cannabis business models.

Most of the matters were refiles that did not get completed last year, council president Ed Flynn said.

Though there was not much discussion at a council meeting, Flynn reminded members of the council several times that there would be opportunity for conversation at hearings and work sessions.

Councilors Erin Murphy and Michael Flaherty filed a new hearing order "to ensure that the Boston Police and School Safety officers work together to ensure a safe environment for all our students and staff in the Boston Public Schools."

"Acts of violence in Boston Public Schools, including physical assaults, bullying, and sexual assaults are on the rise and students, families and school staff do not feel that the district is handling these attacks appropriately," the order says, citing 440 reported incidents of bullying and 744 sexual assaults reported last school year.

"On January 4, 2023, the first day back from winter break, a teacher from Young Achievers School was escorting her student from the building at dismissal because the student, a seventh grader, asked for her help to walk her home because she was afraid," said Councilor Murphy. "The teacher and student were jumped by a group of girls and elementary school-aged students, as young as fourth grade, witnessed this attack. They were being punched and kicked repeatedly. As the teacher shielded the student on the ground, one of the girls jumped on her head, knocking her unconscious and causing severe damage to her face and eyes."

The hearing is intended to examine how the Boston Police Department, BPS school safety officers and the district's administration can work together to "enforce a policy that ensures all our students are safe."

Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, who said her niece attends the Young Achievers School, said the hearing should center on what families of students want when it comes to school safety.

"I talk to a parent at the Young Achievers every single day about what's happening there, and I just want to say that if we are talking about how to ensure the safety of the children there, limiting that conversation to one about police officers and resource officers is not the way forward," Louijeune said. "I'm not saying this conversation can't happen, but it is extremely shortsighted for us to have it in a way that is not discussing what the parents of students in the school are talking about every day when it comes to public safety. "

On her refiling of a hearing order on diversifying the city's cannabis business model, Councilor Julia Meija said, "If we're really serious about meeting this moment then we need to be serious about how we are going to change the way we do business."

The hearing order seeks to examine the idea of having leased commercial kitchens where cannabis producers could make products.

"Barriers to opening a brick-and-mortar storefront still exist, especially for individuals interested in opening up a cannabis dispensary in the City of Boston; and WHEREAS, States across the country, including Colorado, have individuals to produce and sell edibles made in leased commercial kitchens," the order says.

"I'm looking forward to really having a conversation of what it looks like when we're really serious about social equity licenses and things of that nature. We have seen so many folks come in and out of these spaces trying to build their businesses and we need to start thinking outside of the box in terms of how we diversify the cannabis industry here in the city of Boston," Mejia said.

Other orders that were filed Wednesday concerned ventilation systems in schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19, exploring using municipal bonds to increase affordable housing, and amending Boston's zoning code to allow residents and businesses to host honey bee hives.

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