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New task force set to tackle school safety issues

Delaware Public Media

A task force examining how to better address school violence in First State schools is ready to get to work next week.

State Sen. Bobby Marshall  (D-Wilmington West) pushed for the panel earlier this year in response to the death of 16 year-old Amy Joyner-Francis following an assault in a bathroom at Howard High, and the shooting of another Howard student, 15 year-old Brandon Wingo, just blocks from the school.

But Marshall says the group is looking beyond high profile incidents as it seeks to create a safer day-to-day climate for learning.  He suggests that means addressing the issues that disrupt a school’s learning environment.

“We have the normal day-to-day behavior issues that have always been around with young kids that are full of energy.  And we accept that.  But the issue of bullying, cyber-bullying. and the consequences and sometimes the violence that occur in the aftermath any form of bullying are what we need to talk about,” said Marshall.

Capital School District Superintendent Dan Shelton agrees that’s where the focus needs to be.

“At every school district, there’s significant disciplinary action, which often leads to removal of students that have the major incidents.  That’s not where the problem lies," said Shelton. "The problem is in the lower level stuff.  We need guidance counselors.  We need family crisis therapists.  We used to have more and more of these things and they’ve been whittled back over the years.  We need to bring them back in and bring them back further. ”

Shelton says the problem will adding these resources and others such as more school resource officers or school constables is lack of funds.

Marshall is aware of that – which is why he wants the 23-member taskforce to have a report with recommendations ready by mid-October

“So if we make recommendations and they have a price tag that we have that information up front early to the current governor and the incoming governor,” said Marshall, who is also a candidate for Wilmington mayor.

The committee, which consists of lawmakers, state and local education officials and representatives of law enforcement, holds its first meeting next Wed. in Delaware City,  It starts at 11:30 am at the Grass Dale State Conference Center.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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