Brandon Shavers knows what loss feels like after his friend took her life a year ago.
The Buchholz High School junior said it’s important to talk to people and see if they’re doing OK. The 17-year-old, who wants to be a psychologist, said mental health checks should be implemented at schools in a discussion with administrators on school safety and gun violence Wednesday night.
“That’s blood on my hands if I don’t say anything,” he said.
Fifteen students from Newberry, Buchholz, Eastside and Gainesville high schools took questions from about 35 people at a monthly meeting of the city’s Black on Black Crime Task Force at the Kirby Smith Center about topics including the importance of mental health, crisis preparation and see-through backpacks.
John Alexander, the executive director of Reichert House, moderated responses from the panel and said the discussion was organized to talk about campus safety, which has been in the news, from students’ perspectives.
“Everybody here is a leader for coming out here today to talk,” he said.
Kurtis Brutton, a senior at Gainesville High School, worries that if schools required students wear see-through backpacks, police could search students too much and make them uncomfortable, he said.
“I feel like it would be an issue for privacy,” the 18-year-old said.
Sam Cornell, 18, a Buchholz High School senior, said preventative measures like campus metal detectors or increased police presence are important, but installing emergency tourniquet kits in classroom buildings would help save lives in the event that an active shooter does come onto campus. The first three minutes, the time it may take for paramedics to arrive, is enough time for someone to bleed out, he said.
“If I shut my mouth right now, and we all just sat here for three minutes, tell me that’s not a long time,” he told the group.
High school shooting are becoming a “new normal,” said Cornell, who is working with the school administration to have the medical response kits funded.
Jovanna Liuzzo, a junior at Eastside High School, said after the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, everyone at her school has been very sensitive.
“Even just hearing someone yell in the hallway you wonder, ‘Oh goodness, what is that?’” Liuzzo said.
The 17-year-old talked to her school principal about arranging open forums to start educating students about what to do in the event of a shooting.
“Because I honestly have no idea,” she said. “We talked about it, you know, once in the first week.”
Karen Clarke, the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, was in attendance and said she wanted to arrange a meeting to continue the dialogue with the 15 students.
“This is a subject that you don’t want to talk about, but it is there and it is the new normal for us,” Clarke said.
A student carries a clear backpack outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Monday, April 2, 2018. The bags are one of a number of security measures the school district has enacted as a result of the Feb. 14 shooting at the school that killed 17.