Six months after it was first advertised, a Ramsey County task force on school safety now is coming together.
County Attorney John Choi announced on Thursday who will lead the six-month effort as well as plans for a July 25 public forum and an online survey. The task force will look at the root causes of violence in the schools — and map out community strategies to make buildings safer.
The idea arose in December when a 16-year-old student at St. Paul’s Central High was charged with felony assault after attacking a teacher who tried to intervene in a cafeteria fight.
Choi noted then that student-on-staff violence — measured by the filing of fourth-degree assault cases by his office — had doubled between 2014 and 2015, and that the problem was not St. Paul’s alone. Thirteen of the 28 incidents that spurred the gross-misdemeanor charges in 2015 had occurred in the suburbs, he said.
Thus far in 2016, his office has prosecuted 11 fourth-degree assault cases, spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said Wednesday.
In March, a teacher at St. Paul’s Como Park Senior High was punched by two students who went into his classroom to assault another student who apparently sold poor-quality marijuana to yet another student — an incident that brought about more serious felony charges.
In a news release, Choi said: “We have spent the past several months talking with superintendents, educators and other school staff, teachers, students, parents and others in our community who care deeply about our schools and are invested in being part of the solution … [we] are looking forward to a productive conversation.”
The task force is led by Jeremiah Ellis, director of partnerships at Generation Next, and Suzanne Kelly, vice president of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners and a former interim superintendent for the St. Paul Public Schools.
“Over the coming months, it is my expectation that we will find tangible, actionable recommendations to inform our community and its leaders as they make decisions going forward,” Ellis said in a statement.
The 37-member task force includes parents, students, teachers, school resource officers and present and former school administrators, among them Todd Goggleye, current principal of St. Paul’s American Indian Magnet School, and Larry Lucio, former principal of Humboldt High on the city’s West Side.
A community conversation is planned for 5 p.m. July 25 at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 271 Mackubin St., St. Paul.
An online survey is expected to be posted between July 25 and Aug. 12 on the county attorney’s office website. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/joo6pzv.
Task force recommendations are expected to be presented to the community early next year.