Parents of Duval County School Students: Are your children safe?

Jacksonville public schools report a large number of disciplinary incidents to the state of Florida, yet they are woefully short of having enough police to put one officer in every school, as Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposed.

With approximately 160 schools, not including charter schools, the public school system has only 56 police officers.

The Duval County School system does not use Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office personnel. Instead, it has had its own police force for a number of years. For security reasons, they do not disclose how the officers are distributed in the schools.

For the 2015-16 school year, the most recent available, the local schools reported nearly 13,000 conduct code violations out of 72,000 throughout Florida’s 67 counties – by far the largest number of any district.

They included rape, robbery, burglary, drugs, but the two largest categories, totaling more than 10,000, were the violent ones of fighting and physical attack. There were 13 reported incidents of possession of firearms and 15 of other weapons.

The total in Duval County was twice as high as in Broward County, scene of the school shooting earlier this year that cost 17 lives and renewed concerns about school safety.

It also was nearly four times as high as populous Dade County, casting doubt on the validity of the statistics in the self-reporting system.

Critics such as author and columnist Ann Coulter have accused Broward County officials of deliberately seeking to lower the school crime rate simply by not reporting crimes, and claim the shooting there might not have happened if more sensible procedures had been followed.

Statewide, there were 151,124 out-of-school suspensions. In Broward, there were only 5,152. In Duval, the number was 6,737. said, “In 2013, the year before (shooter Nikolas) Cruz entered high school, the Broward County school system rewrote its discipline policy to make it much more difficult for administrators to suspend or expel problem students, or for campus police to arrest them for misdemeanors – including some of the crimes Cruz allegedly committed in the years and months leading up to the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at his Fort Lauderdale-area school.

“The new policy resulted from an Obama administration effort begun in 2011 to keep students in school and improve racial outcomes, and came against a backdrop of other efforts to rein in perceived excesses in “zero tolerance” discipline policies, including in Florida.

“Broward school Superintendent Robert W. Runcie – a Chicagoan and Harvard graduate with close ties to President Obama and his Education Department – signed an agreement with the county sheriff and other local jurisdictions to trade cops for counseling. Students charged with various misdemeanors, including assault, would now be disciplined through participation in “healing circles,” obstacle courses and other “self-esteem building” exercises.

“Asserting that minority students, in particular, were treated unfairly by traditional approaches to school discipline, Runcie’s goal was to slash arrests and ensure that students, no matter how delinquent, graduated without criminal records.”

The failure to notice clear signs the Broward shooter was dangerous has been well documented.

The large number of incidents reported locally either indicates serious problems or more honest reporting. In either case, the numbers seem to suggest an increase in police protection is warranted but another question might be whether it could better be achieved by the schools hiring more police or by using manpower already on hand, at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Curiously, Duval had the lowest rate of incidents reported to the police.

As to why the schools report more disciplinary problems than any other district, Assistant Superintendent Don Nelson says it may be related to the fact that every district has a different code of conduct and must try to match that to the state’s reporting requirements. He said one reason fewer incidents are reported to the police locally is, again, local policies differ. He also noted the large number of fighting incidents, which rarely are a police matter.

The School Board supports Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to have more mental health counseling for troubled students. But it opposes allowing teachers with permits to carry weapons in order to protect themselves and their students if an active shooter is threatening them.

Recently, the board voted to spend $132,913 districtwide for additional security systems, cameras and monitored control access systems, and it got a report this month claiming the number of school disciplinary incident referrals was down from the previous year.

Local public schools clearly are taking steps to increase school safety, although they are not utilizing all options that are available to them.

NOTE:  This past week a gun was found on Campus at Raines High School which adds more to our concern about school safety.  Loaded gun found at Raines High School

What’s your opinion of how Duval County Schools are protecting our children.  Do you think it’s okay for the school system to have their own Police Department reporting to the Superintendent?



Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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