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New Hanover County holds public forum to address community violence

New Hanover County is holding two listening sessions to address violence in schools and in the...
New Hanover County is holding two listening sessions to address violence in schools and in the community(NHC)
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 7:42 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County held the first of two public forums Monday evening to hear community concerns and continue the dialogue about safety in schools.

Tonight’s panel, featuring local law enforcement, representatives from community groups, and parents, discussed issues in New Hanover County that lead up to, or are a direct result of, violence within the community. Linda Thompson, New Hanover County’s Chief Diversity and Equity Officer moderated the session.

The panel discussed violence in the community, recent threats to schools, and referred to the August 2021 shooting at New Hanover High School.

Maj Greg Johnson with Wilmington Police said each threat made to schools has to be investigated thoroughly, and said the police don’t want to take any chances.

“If you hear something, say something. It doesn’t matter what time of [day or] night,” said Johnson.

He added that when a student reports social media bullying, the school should be the first to address the issue. If it’s reported to police, WPD tries to divert and counsel individuals.

New Hanover County program coordinator, Teresa Huffman, said many kids are afraid of retaliation.

“It’s not about ratting, it’s not about snitching, it’s about reporting,” said Huffman. She also said that parents and trusted adults have to be good at following up through the right channels when information is shared with them.

Judy McKnight with Moms in Mourning said, “It’s one of the hardest things to do to get people to stop hiding behind the word, “snitch”.”

A community member asked about the importance of nourishment and a healthy diet in regards to violence.

The panel discussed how lack of nutrition can have a huge impact on people’s feelings and emotions and may contribute to people making poor choices.

UNCW’s Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Donyell Roseboro, talked about the importance of families eating together regularly.

“It’s also about the conversation parents can have with their kids around the table,” said Roseboro.

Thompson believes discipline begins at home and that adults don’t always address issues in an ideal way. She said, as adults, we bring race into the equation and young people often don’t learn how to deal with conflict. She said, “Violence impacts all of us.”

Thompson asked the panelists what gaps need be filled to prevent violence in our school community.

Roseboro said teachers need to ask more questions and would benefit from more professional development to learn how to address defiance from students.

Huffman believes the key is to have more mentors and not to look at mentors from a point of view of color. She said schools need more mentors and more extra-curricular activities that bring kids together, bring parents together, and involve more men. Huffman encouraged more people to get involved and do everything holistically for every race.

A parent asked about the consequences for bullies even after incidents have been reported to schools.

Johnson said that if no resolution is found with the school and the bullying continues, to report it to law enforcement and process it through the legal system.

“The child may have to have counselling that is forced through the court system,” he said.

Wrapping up the discussion, Thompson asked what each panelist would recommend moving forward.

Licensed Practical Nurse Constanza Zapata invited parents, healthcare providers, and any members of the community to get involved and be a part of the solution. Roseboro also wanted to partner with everybody and to encourage people to ask questions.

Johnson encouraged parents to come in an talk to the resource officers if a child is having issues at school.

McKnight’s main goal is to help the kids today, not to wait until they’re in prison or in a graveyard.

Huffman wants people to stay open-minded. “Allow yourself to be receptive and willing to receive what’s being offered,” she said.

“This conversation has to continue,” said Thompson. “Fill out the surveys, be a part of the conversation.”

The “Let’s Talk” public forums are virtual events that feature an array of panelists including local service providers, families, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement officials and more. Community participants can join the virtual meeting to listen to the conversation and submit questions by typing them into the chat feature.

The second virtual public forum, “Let’s Talk: School Safety,” will start at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 17. The panel will feature representatives from New Hanover County Schools’ Central Services, school administration and parents. The discussion will center around how issues that start in a community impact the school environment, and how to help ensure safety on school campuses. After the panel discussion, attendees are invited to ask questions and share feedback via the chat. Click here on November 17 to attend the second session.

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