VIOLENCE: the use of physical force to injure somebody or damage something.

Violence is not a new thing. Violence, physical, psychological or emotional, plays a role in virtually all relationships, past and current. What seems shocking is: (1) the degree of violence existing in a supposedly civilized world, (2) the intensity of the violent acts occurring in a supposedly civilized world, (3) the immediacy in which evidence of these acts is available to us [via all media sources], (4) the seeming lack of remorse so often present in the perpetrators of the violent acts, (5) the apparent sense of purpose evident in the perpetrators of many of the violent acts, and (6) the learned lack of value of human life. This can be evidenced by the wholesale violence graphically (and repeatedly) depicted in electronic games and entertainment. Violence is often aligned with hopelessness as lack of hope minimizes self worth.

School is a perfect microcosmic example of our larger culture. School (the process of education) does not exist in a vacuum. The culture of a school, while reflecting the characteristics of the particular participants, also reflects the diverse values, experiences and dynamics that exist in the larger culture within which the school is embedded. Extrapolating from my prior comments is it any wonder that examples of violence have occurred in the school environment. Frankly, considering all of the families at risk in our community, it is surprising that we have not seen more examples of violent behavior. I believe that is, in part at least, a testament to the degree of planning and preparation that exists in our school environments. This is partially explained by such variables as: the District Discipline Matrix, The [electronic] Discipline Management System, the Bullying Policy, the comprehensive efforts of the District’s Office of Prevention Programs, and parent vigilance.

I was involved in the adoption of the District Discipline Matrix from the beginning of the process, and I am the creator and philosophical designer of the Discipline Management System. I shepherded the process from a seminal idea until it became systemically adopted. In addition to ease of process facilitation, the Disciple Management System (DMS) insures equity in the assigning of consequences – across all school locations – for similar Student Code of Conduct violations.  Based on this new clarity of data system, I was able to ask for, and have produced, an entire series of reports that provide distinctive information in regard to student behavior at each school (compliance to or variation from the Student Code of Conduct). Used wisely, this data is highly suggestive in regard to application of appropriate interventions (or, better yet, preventive strategies) targeting these behaviors. The goal is to enhance the school culture so that there is less disruptive behavior and, therefore, more time on academic task. Five minutes per hour lost each day to academic endeavor equates to seventeen full lost days per year (or seventeen divided by one hundred and eighty days in a complete school year: eight percent. In these times of strict accountability, can any school environment afford to ‘give away’ eight percent of the academic year?). This data set can be a powerful tool for intervention and adaptation.

The DMS was only one part of a more global vision I brought to the District. Having established a model for assigning consequences in a fair and equitable manner (and therefore generating honest data upon which prevention / intervention strategies could be built), I wanted to design a system that addressed students at risk. Data analysis painted the picture that more than 100,000 (of the district’s 250,000+0 students ‘owned’ 4 or more risk factors. The risk factors included: (1) the factors commonly associated with non-completion of high school and (2) the non-school related challenges a significant number of children face (poverty, familial disruption, systemic involvement, etc). The vision for this system neatly aligns with the national implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) strategies. Simply put, the Risk Management System (RMS) is driven by the ‘so what’ question. Once you have identified that a child is at risk (to not graduate), what do you do about it. 

I am very proud to say that, even after my Department (Dropout Prevention / Alternative Education) was disbanded, and I left the District in June, 2009, this effort has continued. As a Core Team member of Project Bridge, I have been able to continue my involvement with the effort. I am very proud to say that the Risk Management System will be piloted in 25 schools commensurate with the beginning of the 2010-2011 school years, with a target for full systemic implementation in January 2011.
During my tenure, I was responsible for the District’s Alternative to External Suspension (AES) Program. This unique program ‘saved’ (at minimum) 50,000 student suspension days annually. This meant that students whose Student Code of Conduct violation would ‘entitle’ them to an external suspension, were allowed to participate in an alternative which would (1) allow them to continue in their academic courses, (2) keep them in a supervised environment, and (3) expose them to ‘behavior modifying’ strategies that could help them avoid the behaviors that earned them the suspension.

I have a long and meaningful involvement with children’s’ issues in Broward County. 

Board Member-Children’s Services Board of Broward County
Board Member-Breakthrough Fort Lauderdale
Board Member-Circuit 17 Juvenile Justice Board
Board Member-Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative
Member-Florida Attorney General’s Reduction Task Force (region VII)
Executive Committee-North Broward Prevention Coalition
Regional Director-Florida League of Middle Schools (Region III)
Board Member-One Community Partnership (SAMHSA grant)
Representative-Governor’s Commission on Children & Youth (Maryland)
Member-Leadership Miami
I am proud of this involvement. More important than simple involvement, however, is the ‘global’ vision that these efforts have helped me to develop (in regard to (1) community risk factors, (2) violence, (3) at risk, and (4) solution based models). I have participated in training regarding: the public health model, the SAMSHA model, the CADCA model, Restorative Justice Model, and the System of Care model, among others. System of Care values are particularly important, I believe, as we attempt to fashion 21st century solutions to address the community risk factors, including violence, that are facing us.

A system of care is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that are organized to meet the challenges of children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families. Families and youth work in partnership with public and private organizations to design mental health services and supports that are effective, that build on the strengths of individuals, and that address each person's cultural and linguistic needs. A system of care helps children, youth and families function better at home, in school, in the community and throughout life.
Systems of care is not a program — it is a philosophy of how care should be delivered.  Systems of Care is an approach to services that recognizes the importance of family, school and community, and seeks to promote the full potential of every child and youth by addressing their physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and social needs
-SAMHSA website
In order to address student behavior at school, I engaged Dr. Randy Sprick and his Safe & Civil Schools Organization to address safety and civility challenges. I was able to involve Dr. Sprick over a nearly five year period. Partnering with Safe & Civil Schools, we saw positive behavior change (reduced incidence of Student Code of Conduct violations in the schools where the model was implemented with fidelity).

The Safe & Civil Schools Series is a collection of practical materials designed to help school staff improve safety and civility across all school settings. By so doing, school personnel lay a foundation to engage students and enhance learning.
The goal of all materials in the series is to empower school staff with techniques to help all students behave responsibly and respectfully. The materials are full of specific "how-to" information. Though each resource stands alone, all are integrated and share some basic processes and beliefs.
The beliefs include:
1. All students must be treated with dignity and respect.
2. Students should be taught the skills and behaviors necessary for success.
3. Motivation and responsibility should be encouraged through positive interactions and building relationships with students.
4. Student misbehavior represents a teaching opportunity.
The processes include:
1. Using data. Objective information about behavior is more reliable than labels, conclusions, or stereotypes.
2. Structuring for success. All school settings should be organized to promote successful behavior from students.
3. Collaboration. Helping students behave responsibly is the shared responsibility of all school staff.
4. Self-reflection. If student behavior is irresponsible, school staff should reflect on what they can do to help students.
These processes and beliefs form a structure for procedures that help prevent students from "falling through the cracks" into school failure.
Procedures can be categorized into three levels:
• School wide (affecting all students in all settings)
• Classroom (for teachers in their own classroom)
• Individual (specifically tailored to meet the needs of individual students)

All of my community involvements, regardless of the specific mission, share the commonality of addressing community risk factors. Most recently, two important involvements are the Prevention / Intervention Committee of the Attorney General’s Anti Gang Task Force (AGTF) and the community - wide initiative addressing Youth on Youth Violence. The AGTF effort is unique in that it brings together partners from all segments in our community to address the growing problem of gangs (and gang involvement). Research is clear, gang involvement equates to violence and violent, anti-social behavior. As part of my role in this effort, I have participated in Project Safe Neighborhoods Anti-Gang training. This training is facilitated by the office of the United States Attorney General. 
The Broward County Commission empowered its’ Children’s Services Board, under the leadership of Commissioner Lois Wexler, to create a mechanism to address youth on youth violence across Broward County. The mission was to include (1) creating a vehicle to identify, clarify, inform and set a planning process regarding these issues, (2) support best practice efforts already in place, (3) suggest and support new initiatives, (4) align county and community initiative with common language, (5) bring critical community leaders together to address the challenge. I am proud to be a founding, planning partner in this critically important effort. The initial objective was met by the call to action summit held on May 26th at the Bank Atlantic Center.
Together with Broward County, The Children’s Council, 2-1-1, Project Bridge, municipal leaders, BSO, The Police Chief’s organization and many other important funding and service providing organizations, we have made important initial steps to bring all layers of our community together to address this critical challenge.






It's Always the Right Time to do the Right Thing-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.