First Coast High students voice concerns over school violence

School district officials respond to students' letters

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Video of a large fight at First Coast High School that surfaced in May showed a crowd of teens attacking a student.

Nearly a month after the video of the schoolyard fight surfaced, two rising seniors reached out to Channel 4, explaining they'd had enough and wanted people to know that First Coast High's image shouldn't be what the fight video portrayed.

Gabrielle Gibson and Bree Moore decided to take matters in their own hands and write letters to administrators, asking for help to create change for their school.

"I think it was really us realizing that it wasn't really about rebuilding the top of the class, the seniors," Gibson said. "It's really about giving that strong foundation to the freshman, so that when they rise up as seniors they have that strong foundation as well."

DOCUMENT: Gabrielle Gibson's letter

The teens, who call themselves "partners in crime," drafted letters and said when their letters didn't get very far with First Coast High administrators, they sent them to Duval County Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and members of the school board.

"Dr. Vitti and Becki Couch were actually very proud of us for reaching out and trying to initiate the change we wanted to see, instead of leaving it up to a higher power," said Moore.

"I want people to know that we're not the generation of ignorance, or the generation of mediocrity or just getting by," said Gibson. "We really are that pride of the Northside that we used to be."

In Gibson's letter she wrote, "At my school and its most recent hard hits, many students find it hard to communicate concerns to adult figures."

DOCUMENT: Bree Moore's letter

Moore wrote, "I'm ready to change First Coast. Whether I have 100 followers or I'm standing alone."

School Board Chairwoman Becki Couch emailed Moore about her letter and wrote, "I am an alumni of First Coast High School and it pains me to think that it has earned a reputation of being unsafe. I appreciate your willingness to stand up for what you believe in."

The teens received a response from Vitti shortly after he received their letters. He wrote back and said, "I have to tell you I am always impressed when young people step up to demonstrate pride in their school."

Vitti put Moore and Gibson in touch with his staff to address the students' issues.

DOCUMENT: School board response

"It just makes me feel like I'm doing something right and leading toward a change I actually want," said Moore.

Moore and Gibson both hope that other students will take a stand about the problems at their schools.

"You have a voice, and there's nothing anyone can do to take away the voice that you have," said Moore.

"My advice would be to 'be the change you wish to see in the world,'" Gibson said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. "Don't be scared to speak out; be bold; be brave and have courage to do what you want in life."