Along with budgeting for additional police officers at schools, the Miami-Dade school district and its police department plan on doubling the number of random weapon searches, adding another trained police dog and investing in the identification of mental health issues in students.
On Friday, Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho cited two shootings that left Miami-Dade students Bobby Lee Gibson and Tequila Forshee dead before the start of this school year, along with recent national gun-related tragedies, as the reason for the safety push.
"There is nothing more tragic for me as superintendent than when one of my students perishes – when one of my children dies," Carvalho said.
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The plan will be executed under the leadership of Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian Moffett, who said the department will work with school officials in the early detection of weapons.
“Any time there is a weapon at the school site, it is one too many," Moffett said. “Schools need to be safe havens and not places for guns."
In order to spread the message of gun safety, the department will launch awareness campaigns that will include law-related education and student presentations. It will partner with local law enforcement to track guns outside of schools as well.
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When he took over the Miami-Dade County Public Schools five years ago, Carvalho promised to go to every student funeral.
"I never thought that I would be attending 40 funerals, 20 of those, children murdered by bullets in our community," the superintendent said.
Sparked by the seemingly endless shootings locally, and by mass killings like the nightmare in Newtown, Connecticut, Carvalho says it's past time to lead the conversation about kids getting their hands on guns.
"Children have access to guns because the guns are in the streets of Miami, there are guns in their homes, and a large percentage of the guns that are brought into school or school buses, children find them in their homes," Carvalho said.
The school board and the school district also plan to hold parents accountable to the fullest extent of the law when students take guns to schools, even if they are owned legally, Carvalho said.
Moffett announced that 18 more officers had been hired and resource officers would be posted at every middle and high school in the county. But there's another problem to tackle, Carvalho said.
"There is a culture of violence that is so pervasive in America today," said Carvalho, as he called on parents to limit their children's exposure to violent video games.
The school district's crisis response leader said kids are harmed just by the ripple effects of violence.
"Far too often I have heard statements such as students in this particular community don't really feel anything after there's been a violent death, it doesn't affect them; on the contrary, it affects them deeply, it affects their social, emotional development, it affects their ability to achieve in the classroom," said Frank Zenere, a school psychologist and an expert on crisis response.
Any parents or student who suspects the presence of a weapon at a school can report it anonymously at 305-995-COPS (2677) or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS (8477).
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