Guns, mental health and parenting: Carver Middle School community tries to tackle violence

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Members of the Carver Middle School community gathered inside the school’s cafeteria Monday night after a series of fights this fall escalated into a shots-fired incident after the school let out in early December.

No students were injured, and none of the teens arrested were students at that school, officials pointed out. However, the gunshots and dozens of scrambling kids rattled the community enough to act.

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“I see kids standing up here with guns,” one man said, posing as if he was making an Instagram post. “That’s where it starts.”

Guns and mental health were some of the biggest topics of the night, along with a need for more parents to get involved in their children’s education and the wider school community.

Community members complained that guns were an escalating factor that wasn’t a part of fights they got into as kids. Sheriff John Mina, who doesn’t have jurisdiction over the school, responded that most kids were getting guns from lazy gun owners who left a weapon in their unlocked car overnight.

Mina also praised gun buyback programs that his office runs, where guns can be traded for gift cards to get them off the streets.

Read: Shots fired in East River High School parking lot, district says; no injuries reported

Parents were also concerned that kids waited for one another to fight off school property, where resource officers have no jurisdiction. Mina and Orlando Police officials said they’d work to provide more patrols to communities after the bell rings.

City Commissioner Bakari Burns unveiled a $250,000 proposal to provide Carver Middle School with four “safety coaches” to guide students through difficult situations before they escalate to needing law enforcement involvement. He said it would be a test program modeled after a district in Minneapolis that could be expanded if successful.

Read: School Board member holds meeting to address gun violence at an Orlando middle school

Almost everyone in the room called for additional actions from parents, through a “Dads on Duty”-type program or even just standing on the sidewalk as their children are released from school. Some asked that punishments for kids who instigate fights be toughened.

“We have to put these children in programs, not let them run through the street,” City Commissioner Regina Hill said. “Idle time is the devil’s time.”

Read: OCPS officials warn students that making false threats carries serious consequences

Among the audience members Monday was Loretta Jones, whose grandson was the target of the shooting. She said she didn’t want to come and was still scared for her family’s safety.

After the gathering disbanded, she said she liked the proposals she heard and backed up comments that parents needed to have more oversight of their teens.

Read: More than a dozen students arrested for violence, threats in Central Florida schools Thursday

“I think there’s going to be some action,” she said. “I really do.”

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