“We Want to See Change”: Superintendent Carvalho Speaks on the Liberty City Shooting

By Sabine Joseph

Parkland survivors have been using their voices to force the nation to face the reality that children are not safe, even in school, because guns are so easily accessible in America. There has been a string of school gun threats in the wake of Parkland, reigniting the age-old debate of how to solve the nation’s gun problem.

The debate has gone back and forth on how best to protect children–“Arm teachers,” “No don’t arm them,” “Ban assault rifles,” “No, don’t ban them”–but the debate seems to be ignoring the gun violence that youths are exposed to daily, not just on the rare occasion that their schools are targeted.

The tragic shooting in Liberty City on Sunday serves as a reminder that the solution needs to focus on protecting students in and out of the classroom.

“It’s not that [students] don’t feel safe coming to school, they don’t feel safe in their own communities,” said Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who spoke with students from the victims’ school, Northwestern Senior High School, on Tuesday. “They tell me that the place where they feel safe is in school; that’s why a lot of our high schools open early and close late, because students linger in the school. Where they feel that they are at risk often is in the streets of our very own community, and that’s a shame.”

Rickey Dixon, Kimson Green, and two of  their peers (whose names remain undisclosed by police) were shot right in front of their homes, and this happens all too often. As of Monday, there had been five shootings in eight days in Liberty Square.

“We know everyone out here because we’re here so often,” said one police officer at the scene.

Along with suicides, shootings like the one in Liberty City make up 60 percent of gun deaths in America, according to a Vox report.

Despite this fact, the protests organized by Liberty City residents, and the tweets about the incident from influential Parkland survivors, this mass shooting (according to the parameters set by the Gun Violence Archive) has received little media attention.

“Parkland was a terrible tragedy that we witnessed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but we’ve experienced that tragedy right here in Miami-Dade for many years,” said Carvalho. “It’s not just seventeen people killed in one single day. It’s seventeen people killed every other month, and that’s just as tragic as what happened in Parkland. One single life is one life too many.”

As one woman remarked to the Miami Herald, “Nothing is OK about this situation,” and changes are being made to remedy it.

“I, this school district, this school board, [will] join hands with members of the community,” said Carvalho. “We want to see change. Not only Liberty City, Miami Gardens, Richmond Heights, areas where we’ve seen young people in our community being mowed down by violence — particularly gun fire violence that’s impacted them. We need to do a lot more . . . I understand the pain, the anxiety, the fear. I hope that all of that is turning to positive energy to bring about social change.”

The students of MDCPS and others all over the country are certainly channeling their pain into positive energy. They are walking out, marching, speaking up or using moments of silence to say everything without saying anything at all.

“What I’m sensing for the very first time in a long time is that the young people in America came together rallying around one issue, and that is your own safety, the protection of your own life, the sanctity of your existence, and I certainly hope that that continues,” said Carvalho. “You can count on me for being the number one supporter of your rights — your right to express yourselves, your right to pursue happiness in our country without being impacted by gun violence.”

 

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