By Bryan Boggiano
The Coral Springs Police Department is searching for ways to reduce school violence, and one possible solution lies with parents.
At their Wednesday commission retreat, Chief Clyde Parry said the department is working to establish an ambassadorship program at schools with parents and community volunteers to reduce school violence.
Since the school year started, he said more fights have occurred, and J.P. Taravella, Coral Glades, and Coral Springs High School are among those with the most noticeable increases.
Parry attributed the increased violence to mental-health concerns stemming from COVID, social media, economy, lack of personal responsibility and accountability, and a relatively lenient disciplinary system.
Commissioner Shawn Cerra agreed with Parry’s remarks, drawing from his experience with the school district, saying that it does not hold kids fully accountable.
“I think it’s fully unacceptable that a student gets into a fight in a cafeteria, stands on tables, food flying everywhere, and the kid gets three days [suspension] with no consequence…,” Cerra said. “There has to be an expectation of accountability.”
Parry said that short suspensions are ineffective. But, he emphasized that an “arrest everybody” strategy would not be effective, either.
Schools are currently facing staffing shortages for teachers and security specialists.
“Because of that, there’s not enough expanded control over the kids,” Parry said. “These are things that we obviously need to try [to] get control of.”
School boards, principals, police, and state attorneys are struggling to coordinate, he added, which allows the problem of school violence to continue.
“We’re all well-meaning. We’re all trying to deal with the problem in our own way,” he said. “But, if we’re not on the same page, and we’re not consistent, then a consistent message isn’t being delivered down to the students or the schools.”
Despite some limitations, Parry applauded Broward County Public Schools for their work with his department, praising their high cooperation and commitment to reducing violence.
For Parry, the school resource officers are essential for building relationships with and mentoring students.
To combat violence, CSPD doubled the amount of school resource officers, continued to collaborate with principals and school staff, and started a community ambassador program to educate residents about police and discuss policing, among other initiatives.
Parry said that he hopes that CSPD can expand its community outreach to reduce school violence.
He cited Dads on Duty, a Louisiana group of fathers who patrols schools and interacts with students. Five dads started the group to stop fights at a school where two dozen kids were either arrested, suspended, or expelled.
The group now has more than 20 members, according to Good Morning America.
Parry discussed the idea with school principals, other school officials, and the community ambassadorship program, all of who praised the idea.
The Serving Institute, which former NFL player Jack Brewer started in 2021, expressed interest in collaborating with CSPD.
The commission also was on board with the idea, stressing the need for students to have mentors to reduce school violence. They also expressed interest in helping CSPD launch the program.
Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons applauded the idea, saying it is important to bring together the community, students, and law enforcement. Solving these problems and addressing school violence would also help assure parents that schools are safe for their children since many are worried.
“That’s what the community ambassador program is supposed to do: solve problems,” he said. “If you can paint pictures of hope, you can calm some people in our city.”
Commissioner Nancy Metayer emphasized the need for students to have mentors and positive role models, especially since COVID-19 may have affected their stress and mental health.
“With this ambassador program, I hope that the students can…go to [these individuals] and they can get the help that they need,” Metayer said.
Commissioner Cerra echoed Metayer’s and Simmons’s comments, saying that he hopes that what Coral Springs plans to do expands beyond the city.
“We have an opportunity here where we can be on the frontline and also really be a model to the rest of the county,” Cerra said.
Chief Parry plans to discuss the program further with Interim Superintendent Dr. Vicki Cartwright on Feb. 11.
The following steps are to get the school board’s approval, identify volunteer criteria, and prepare a training manual. City staff plans to discuss ways to reduce school violence, which the city commission plans to discuss further.
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- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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