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Community Advisory Panel Discusses School Safety with Local Students

By: Michael Demyan

School safety is something that has been widely discussed across the country since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the City of Boca Raton’s Community Advisory Panel has joined in to hear from local students.

The CAP typically holds meetings and forums to listen to residents regarding issues in the Boca Raton community. They recently sat down with about 50 students from various Boca Raton middle and high schools for a roundtable discussion at the downtown library, where students voiced their concerns and ideas on how to move forward.

“The idea was to let the students talk and share their concerns, ideas and solutions about school safety,” CAP Chairman Eric Gooden said. “Adults have done a lot of talking, and our city council wanted to hear from the students. They are residents of the city and should have their voices heard.”

Students involved came from Boca Raton High, Spanish River High, Boca Raton Middle, Omni Middle and Don Estridge Middle. Each school sent around 10 student government representatives.

The students all divided up into groups with multiple members of the advisory panel and spent time giving their thoughts and having a discussion, while the panel jotted down what was said. After they spent time talking, they went around the room as each table gave a summary of what was discussed.

Andy Thomson, who is both a member of the CAP and Boca Raton’s Education Task Force, was one of the panel members in attendance. He spent his time talking to students from Boca Raton High School.

“We talked about the infrastructural security. How do you get onto campus, weaknesses on campus, what can be improved,” he said. “We also talked about the softer side of school security, which is the mental health side of things and how even if you have the most precautions in the world to keep somebody out of campus who’s not supposed to be there, there’s still going to be thousands of kids in the school that are supposed to be there and some or many of them could be dealing with mental health issues that could pose a danger.”

A summary of major points of the roundtable will be prepared to be presented to the Boca Raton City Council at a future meeting.

“The students were engaged, articulate and thoughtful in their discussions, and had some great ideas for solutions,” Vice-Chair Jon Carter said. “I think this format really gave them a voice and we hope they felt empowered and heard.”

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