By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI(CBS4) – Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is urging parents to “hug our kids” after a recent rash of shootings that have taken the lives of students and he hopes a new, 10-point pledge will  improve safety for youngsters.

The pledge was endorsed during a 90-minute roundtable on youth safety at Miami Senior High School that was hosted by Carvalho and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting included local leaders, mayors and police chiefs.

Among measures, the pledge calls for more police presence and visibility at schools and at and near county and municipal parks during early-release school days and enhancing public awareness of existing crime prevention programs.

“It’s time for communities to start rallying around roundtables and start doing something about this crime,” said Sammie Willis, whose 15-year-old son Aaron was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back in a drive-by shooting last year in Miami while riding his bicycle.

“I really feel this is something that was needed for a long time and now we are having the responsible leaders get together and approach this matter,” Willis told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.

“It’s an epidemic that has turned into a pandemic. So many kids are just dropping dead on the streets and for what? How many kids could have become politicians or even a President and they are cut down in the prime of their life.”

Aaron Willis’s mother, Katherine Beaton, told D’Oench, “We need after school special programs that address these needs and this has to start right now, because these kids are getting killed for no reason at all.”

“I’ve attended more than 44 funerals of youngsters,” said Carvalho. “From 2009 until now,   there have been 99 children killed in Miami-Dade. That’s three times the rate of Broward County and it’s unacceptable.”

“We need to hug our kids. We need to increase the level of personal responsibility,” said Carvalho, who has reached out to many families of crime victims.

He recently visited Jackson Memorial Hospital after 17-year-old Booker T. Washington High School student Juan Videa was shot in the stomach.

And last December 27th, he passed out flyers along with the parents of 16-year-old Bryan Herrera, looking for leads in the case of the high school student who was shot and killed just before Christmas while riding his bicycle to a friend’s home to do homework.

The pledge expressed concern about “recent acts of deadly violence against Children in our community” and also called for implementation of a countywide school critical incident response plan, research and development of a smart device reporting application.

The pledge also called for increasing a family’s access to school-based behavioral and mental health services, identifying and enhancing employment programs including summer job opportunities “with track records of success” and promoting youth empowerment summits.

The pledge also called for “open communication channels between youths and law enforcement agencies.”

Gimenez said, “I think schools need to have more visibility of police and I think we need an action plan to do that, so that our young people can communicate with us when they see things happening. And we need different strategies to take care of kids in our parks and neighborhoods.”

“We need to have better communication in the county,” he said.

Activist Ray Parris said, “One of the key things that jumps out is we need  more investment in the community for jobs. We need more jobs.”

He also called for more parental involvement with their children.

“This is always the key,” Parris said. “The more divided a family is the greater the chance a child can go through and get into problems.”

“There needs to be an agreement over security to ensure that the environment is safe around our schools,” Carvalho told D’Oench. “Secondly the safety of children at our parks is important. We also need better crisis management between all police agencies, the county and the School Board.”

This was the second joint roundtable on youth safety in recent months in South Florida with local leaders.


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