Students spotlight town hall on gun violence

Deshawn Etheridge stepped up to the microphone during the town hall to ask the panel a question.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

The youth of the borough are united on one front.

On Tuesday, April 17, a town hall was held for the youngsters to voice their opinions on a range of issues.

Titled ‘Enough Is Enough,’ kids from 11- to 18-years-old approached a microphone to ask the panel of leaders their take on some of their burning questions.

The panel included borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., deputy chief Jason Wilcox, who also heads the Bronx detectives, Lois Herrera the CEO of the Office of Safety and Youth Development at the NYC Department of Education, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, and Outreach director of Thrive NYC, Jennifer Paez.

“Instead of just talking about it, I want our leaders to take action,” said 15-year-old Kaylah Jones of what she hoped would be the outcome of the town hall.

Hot issues like how to reform school safety were certainly brought up during the discussion. Students questioned if DOE would start allowing teachers to carry fire arms, to which members of the panel quickly discounted.

The students breathed sighs of relief and erupted in applause after receiving a response.

Another student expressed concerns over increased ‘policing’ of schools and increased metal detectors rather than adding counselors.

The panel suggested that communication and community were the most important.

“I want change,” said 15-year-old Ashley Sanjuan of her expectations of the discussion. “We should be focused on learning, not worried about getting shot one day.”

New York state has some of the strictest gun control laws and the city and borough itself have witnessed vast declines in the number of homicides and shootings over the last 25 years.

Students posed questions about their safety that brashly demanded concrete action rather than the old ‘if you see something, say something’ mantra.

Other than school safety, students also discussed gun violence as a whole and how it affects the community at large.

Many of the students approached the microphone just to ask the district attorney and deputy chief on how they were going to help better the interaction, not just between community members, but between law enforcement and the community.

“I want police brutality against people of color and black-on-black crime to end,” said 17-year-old Deshawn Etheridge of his overall agenda as a teenager tackling gun violence.

“We’ve heard you talk about the community and gun violence, but what about police who also abuse their authority with gun violence?”

The deputy chief stressed the importance of the ‘Build a Block’ program and getting acquainted with local precincts to form better relationships.

District Attorney Darcel Clark discussed her point of view on Conceal and Carry legislation and agreed there should be a universal federal gun control law.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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