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School Board Meeting
April 15, 1998
Remarks by Schools Board Vice Chair, Demetrio Perez, Jr.

Recently we have heard of several violent incidents that have taken place in public schools throughout our nation. Non however, more terrifying than the one that took place in Jonesboro.

As I thought about these incidents, I also thought about the 342,000 children that we have under our care. We have to take steps to minimize the threat o harm to our children while they are in our schools.

For example, in the days following the Jonesboro incident, ABC News traveled to Chicago where they reported about the security camera in that district. In one instance, two students who attempted to leave the school through a back door wereseen and detained before being able to leave the school.

If those same cameras would have been in place on Jonesboro, that tragedy may not have happened.

For these reasons, I have brought this item before you, my colleagues, for your approval. Our courts, municipal office buildings, and even our own School Board Administration Building are perfect examples of the security measures, which we give ourselves, while they differ greatly from those available to our children.

In order to enter our building and reach its auditorium, visitors must enter through one of two entrances, at these entrances, they must stop and sign their names on a log and obtain an identification badge. If someone would like to visit another area of the building, they are not allowed to proceed until they have been given the proper authorization.

If we can manage to ensure that our offices are secure, how can we deny that opportunity to our schools? Which house the greatest of our treasures, those worth far exceeds the $3.2 billion dollars that we have in our budget. If we combine the 342,000 students that attend our schools with the adult and vocational students, they represent nearly half a million people, more than the population of the City of Miami, and 25% of the population of Dade County.

The Justice Statistics sections of the National Center of Educational Statistics reports than armed robbery and battery in schools has increased by 25% in the last six years.

Gang violence in schools during that period has also risen significantly.
President Clinton, reacting to these figures, called them unacceptable and urged Congress to take urgent measures to combat the growing problem of violence in our schools.

Sandra Felsman, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, stated that, " We must not try to perpetuate schools to which we would not send our children.”A recent survey states that "many teenagers find illegal drugs more common at school that in their neighborhood,” with the conclusion that drugs are a barrier to a better education.41 percent of the high school students surveyed said they had seen drug sold at their school, while 25 percent reported seeing them sold of the students said they would report another student who peddled illegal drugs.

By contrast, 12 percent of high school teachers and 14 percent of middle and high school principals said that they had seen drugs sold on their school grounds.

"Until we get drugs out of our schools, we're not going to have the kin of quality education that everybody dreams about,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., who served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Carter, and who is today the President of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the organization that commissioned the survey.

Mr. Califano added, "National education standards sought by President Clinton would be of little help to schools as long as drugs are so available.”

The report also states that schools are supposed to be the sanctuaries of our students, but that some have become underground warehouses for the sale of drugs and controlled substances. In our school system we see that in the past 5 years our student population has grown by 13%, while crime in that same period has increased by 28%, with drugs and alcohol have the greatest incidence.

And it is also worth nothing that in each of the past two years, the division of school police has reported that there have been more than 500 incidents of trespassing in our schools.In developing this plan of action, I have spoken with many Principals who are eager to receive support from the district to improve safety in their schools.

Brian Kleiman, the Principal at Miami Springs Senior High, already had a few ideas on how to improve security and limit access to the campus.

He told me that this type of measure is extremely necessary to improve security in our schools. I also have heard from countless others who have shared similar viewpoints with me and who believe in this item.

It is for those reason that today, after exchanging impressions with parents, teachers and administrators, I present this item. I want to acknowledge the cooperation and guidance that I received from the deputy Superintendent for School Operations, Mr.

Eddie Pearson and Mrs. Martha Leyva as well as the countless school administrators, parents, teachers, and even students that have made a contribution to this item.

I ask my colleagues on this Board to pass this item so that we may take action on this matter and thereby help to make our school safer places where our teachers can teach and where our students can learn and flourish.

We need to allow our families and ourselves to feel secure that our schools are safe and appropriate places to educate their children and grandchildren. We must make our schools into places where we would consider sending our own children.

It is only in this type of a secure and safe environment that true learning can take place.

Thank you.