School fights, new charter school discussed at Black on Black Crime Task Force meeting

Fighting in schools and the new Santa Fe College Academy of Science and Technology were the topics of discussion at the February monthly meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force.

The total number of referrals from Aug. 10, the first day of school, through Wednesday of this school year, was 684, compared to all of last school year's total of 652, said Anntwanique D. Edwards, Ph.D., chief of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement for the Alachua County Public School District at the meeting held Wednesday in the Hall of Heroes at the Gainesville Police Department.

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"This is a nationwide problem," Edwards said. "We've reached out to cities who have had the problems we've seen, such as New York and Chicago."

More funding for mental health and well-being services for students is greatly needed, and more parents need to be guided and engaged by others who can help them learn how to deal with their children to curtail the increased number of fights happening in schools, Edwards said.

"This will not be fixed overnight," Edwards said. "We have to work together. No matter what we do well, if the students go back to an environment that's not conducive to them, it will reverse everything we've done."

Also, more adult community members should volunteer in schools to talk to children and more after-school programs are needed, Edwards said.

"It takes an entire village to make a change," Edwards said.

Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard of the Eighth Judicial Circuit's a juvenile division and Rebecca Shinholser, juvenile division chief of the circuit's State Attorney's Office talked to the task force about handling juvenile cases.

In the majority of juvenile cases, either one parent is present or none show up, Bullard said.

A "transitional school” for students with behavioral issues needs to be established since the A. Quinn Jones Center has many students, Bullard said.

From left, Darry Lloyd, spokesman for the Eighth Judicial Circuit's State Attorney's Office; GPD Sgt. Matt Walters; Anntwanique D. Edwards, Ph.D., chief of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement for Alachua County Public Schools; GPD officer Rob Koehler; Circuit Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard and Rebecca Shinholser, juvenile division chief at the State Attorney's Office, address the Black on Black Crime Task Force on Wednesday.
(Photo: Photo by Voleer Thomas/For The Guardian)
From left, Darry Lloyd, spokesman for the Eighth Judicial Circuit's State Attorney's Office; GPD Sgt. Matt Walters; Anntwanique D. Edwards, Ph.D., chief of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement for Alachua County Public Schools; GPD officer Rob Koehler; Circuit Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard and Rebecca Shinholser, juvenile division chief at the State Attorney's Office, address the Black on Black Crime Task Force on Wednesday. (Photo: Photo by Voleer Thomas/For The Guardian)

School Resource Officers Sgt. Matt Walters and Rob Koehler during the meeting talked about their experiences investigating criminal complaints involving juveniles, and GPD chief Lonnie Scott thanked attendees for sharing their ideas to solve the issue.

"It is good to see involvement in youth and to see assistance in guiding the youth on the right path," Scott said. "The youth is facing many challenges in this generation, from their peers and from technology. We all have to pull in the same direction to save our youth."

Santa Fe College Academy of Science and Technology's principal William "Bill" McElroy and its curriculum coordinator Adrian DeBose were introduced to the task force by Ed Book, chief of the SF College Police Department who is also a Gainesville city commissioner.

Santa Fe College Academy of Science and Technology's principal William "Bill" McElroy, right, and its curriculum coordinator Adrian DeBose, left, make a presentation during the monthly meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force on Wednesday.
(Photo: Photo by Voleer Thomas/For The Guardian)
Santa Fe College Academy of Science and Technology's principal William "Bill" McElroy, right, and its curriculum coordinator Adrian DeBose, left, make a presentation during the monthly meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force on Wednesday. (Photo: Photo by Voleer Thomas/For The Guardian)

The academy is accepting applications for incoming ninth graders, and its goal is to have a class of 75 students, McElroy said.

The deadline to apply is March 31.

Students who graduate from the school will be able to receive two industry certifications after completing an 18-credit academically challenging curriculum to enhance learning (ACCEL) diploma and an associate in science degree, DeBose said.

The academy will offer four academic pathways, including biotechnology, surgical technology, computer information technology and information technology security, according to its website at https://www.sfcollege.edu/academy/.

"Our courses mirror the local work demands and needs of the community," DeBose said.

The charter school will be on the NW campus at 3000 NW 83rd St. in Building G.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Gainesville-based Black on Black Crime Taskforce hosts monthly meeting