DAVIE – The Youth of South Florida spoke up in clear, strong and emotional terms on Saturday (Feb. 22nd) as the Partners for Youth Foundation launched its inaugural CONFAB in Davie.
The youth were unequivocal in their frantic concern about their emotional and physical safety while attending classes, and the stress visited upon them in school.
In the aftermath of multiple school shootings in the country, the government’s response, including a multiplicity of drills being conducted, were discussed.
The Partners for Youth Foundation (PFY) presented the CONFAB, which hosted an impressive a cadre of officials including the Mayor of Davie – Judy Paul, Consul General of Jamaica – Oliver Mair, Broward Superintendent of Schools- Robert Runcie and retired Chief of Police for Lauderdale Lakes, Andrew Smalling, who is now running for Broward Sheriff.
Presentations were made on Scholarships and University choices, Health & Wellness, Finance- You & Your Money, the impact of Social Media, Immigration & Human Trafficking and Coping Skills. The CONFAB was hosted and moderated by Vice-Chair Steve Higgins.
But it was the Q&A period that electrified the proceedings when a student asked what is being done to protect them at school.
Both the Superintendent and the Police Chief responded with reassurances, backed by a report on the measures now in place.
A second student, however, who stood, and in frank and firm articulation, stated that she and many of her schoolmates were now suffering from anxiety related to the frequent and terrifying drills now being conducted in their schools.
While declaring her truth, she displayed authentic and raw emotion, broke down in utter resignation to her pain, only to be joined by a host of other students and adults who also began crying. Their frustration with the current situation became obvious and telling, and it also was made clear that students apparently ‘do not trust the system’ of ‘if you see something, say something’, even with the promise of anonymity.
This commotion brought to the fore, the urgent need to amend the ‘fixes’ that have been passed by Florida State (Tallahassee)- Measures need to be more sensitive to student’s mental and emotional state and comfort.
It also begs for the opportunity to methodically and deliberately bridge the gap between students and local stakeholders (Schools & the Police department).
Partners for Youth Foundation (PFY) CONFAB Speakers
Mayor Judy Paul launched the Confab and addressed the attendees.
Superintendent Runcie spoke about Broward schools’ innovations, including the rollout of Apps such as “SaferWatch”- and “FortifyFl”, which allow students to report incidents anonymously – “If you see something, say something”.
He mentioned the installation of Tip lines, the $110M spent on security, campus monitors, 13,000 cameras with real-time 24/7 access, upgrades to the intercom systems, the Broward Behavioral Health coalition and a resolution passed NOT to have guns carried by teachers in school.
Chief Smalling spoke about the tension between police officers and the society and the need to re-establish trust and work together.
Our exit interviews reflected the gratitude and appreciation of the youth present at the CONFAB. “Our objective of hearing from our youth in a forum of togetherness, mutual respect, and constructive understanding has been met,” said Steve Higgins, Vice-chairman of the PFY board. “The youth were engaged and enthusiastic in our discussion,” declared Chairman Clinton DaCosta.