JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An increase in school violence has prompted Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti to team up with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in an effort to cut down on the number of incidents involving guns and weapons on local campuses.
So far this school year, there have been nine guns, including one starter pistol, found at Duval County schools, according to district officials.
Vitti and Curry met one-on-one Monday to discuss ways to knock that number down. They're looking to increase security and give children more to do before and after school so that they stay out of trouble.
"The mayor and I talk frequently," Vitti told News4Jax.
But now, it's more urgent. Vitti said he needs everyone's help with an increase in violence in and around Jacksonville's schools. So far this school year, Vitti said, more weapons have been found on campuses than at this time any other year he took the job in 2012, and he wants it to stop.
"I am not the one to pass the buck or to make excuses. One weapon is too many weapons," Vitti said.
Vitti and Curry met for nearly an hour behind closed doors of the mayor's office. They both agreed it was a productive discussion and it's the first of many as they hope to solve the problems in the school system and in the city.
"We are make sure that we are getting to young people, and just touching them right in the heart and making sure they know, 'Look, there's a better way forward," Curry said.
Curry said the previous administration cut budgets for police and after-school programs, both things he's now working to make top priorities.
"We are digging our way out of a hole," Curry said.
The Jacksonville Children's Commission funds several after-school programs throughout the Duval County. But Vitti said more are needed.
"A lot of our kids are just saying there's nothing to do," Vitti said.
As both leaders try to cut down on the problems, they said parents should be on the front lines.
"Be vigilant regarding what your children are doing. Make sure you are monitoring who they're hanging out with, monitor where they are going after school, monitor where they're going on the weekends, look at their socializing on social media, what they are posting on social media," Vitti said.
Vitti added that gun owners need to be responsible as well, and lock up their weapons and teach children to never touch firearms.
"I'm just trying to get us all to collaborate on dealing with violence in the city," Curry said.
The superintendent said he'll go into more detail about his plans to fix the problems at Tuesday night's school board meeting.