Students, experts to weigh in on school safety at News4Jax town hall

We invite you to attend 'Generation Under Fire' Wednesday night at JU

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Channel 4, The Local Station, in partnership with the Public Policy Institute at Jacksonville University, will host a town hall meeting called "Generation Under Fire" on Wednesday night.

The discussion will focus on how our children are feeling when they go to school, and what can be done to help them recapture a feeling of safety.

We invite you and your child to attend the 8 p.m. event at the Terry Concert Hall at JU.

If you can't make it there, the live town hall meeting will air at 8-9:30 p.m. on Channel 4 and

RELATED: Community to address 'Generation Under Fire'

News4Jax anchor Melanie Lawson and I will be hosting the town hall. The goal is to explore how students can best prevent a tragedy from happening in a school in our area.

No one will forget the images from Feb. 14, when students fled Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The shooting at the school in Parkland left 17 dead and others injured.

It also inspired a movement to see change happen. Some of that change has already happened.

Florida lawmakers created a bill to harden schools, fund mental health care, provide options for arming school employees and change the legal age to purchase rifles. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill.

But the determination for change hasn't ended, and the underlying discomfort is a fear about being in school.

"It's kind of scary when the biggest concern is a reaction to the shooting," said Tyler Perry, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School. "You go through halls, you listen to teachers, and our students and our teachers are afraid."

Young people are suddenly not afraid to share their concerns.

So who is listening? 

"Hearing from students, sometimes administration, they see things," said Kelsey Sweeney, a senior at Matanzas High School. "But actually being a student in that situation, they really want to hear from us, how we feel about certain things and certain issues. And they really try to help and change things." 

While another school shooting hasn't happened, school threats have exploded, with a national report showing 600 across the nation in the two weeks following Parkland. Many of those occurred in Northeast Florida.

RELATED: What should you do if you see a threat on social media?

"One thing we're trying to get across is that we just want to feel safe," Jessica Goldson, a junior at River City Science Academy, told News4Jax report Elizabeth Campbell on Tuesday. "We don't want to come to school scared."

So how do we replace that fear with confidence?

That's what we want to find out from our local leaders in law enforcement and education, and especially from students going to schools in our area.

At Wednesday's town hall meeting, we will have live audience participation, and most of the area superintendents will be with us. Other officials who will be in attendance include:

  • Duval County Schools Police Department Director Michael Edwards 
  • Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels
  • Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach
  • Bradford County Sheriff's Office Maj. Brad Smith
  • Duval County Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis
  • Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis
  • St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson
  • Nassau County Superintendent Kathy Burns
  • Putnam County Superintendent Rick Surrency
  • Jim Clark with Daniel Kids
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville President Dr. Cynthia Bioteau
  • Dr. Whitney George, assistant professor in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at JU
  • Wyllie Hodges with First Coast Crime Stoppers
  • Stacy McDonald-Taylor and Becky Walters with Jax Mom's Blog
  • Alison Carlson with Jax4Kids
  • Colleen Rodriguez with Jewish Family and Community Services

Our panel of experts includes mental health professionals, former FBI agents and educators.

But the most important people involved will be students. We have students coming from public and private schools around Northeast Florida.

Seating is limited, so you're urged to be in place well before the 8 p.m. event begins. 

News4Jax will also lead social media discussions on the issue during the program. Like WJXT4 The Local Station / News4JAX on Facebook, follow @wjxt4 on Twitter or add @wjxt4 on Snapchat.  

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