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Sen. Bill Nelson hosts roundtable on gun control, school safety in West Palm Beach

Posted at 11:25 AM, Apr 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-06 04:34:03-04

Gun control. It’s at the forefront of many discussions in our homes, our jobs and especially our schools.

On Thursday in West Palm Beach, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida brought local students, teachers and principles to the table to discuss ways to make them feel safe at their own schools.

The roundtable discussion was held in conference building at Gaines Park. Students and teachers from campuses like Roosevelt Middle School, Forest Hill High School and Palm Beach Lakes High School stressed their fears and concerns to Nelson.

"I want to hear from you," he said during the meeting.

Palm Beach County school board leaders voiced their stern thoughts on arming teachers in the classroom.

"We will not arm teachers. Teachers are to teach and that is their full responsibility. So we have taken a stand, sent a letter to the governor," said Marcia Andrews, school board member for District 6.

Nelson also talked about the Stop the Violence Act, signed into law by the president two weeks ago. It allows schools to access federal funds for programs, training and technology for safer campuses.

"But there's only so much money. We have thousands and tens of thousands of schools across the country. There's only so much you can do," said Sen. Nelson.

Watch the video below to listen to the entire roundtable.

"Our schools are not built to withstand an AK-47 blowing the place up. We're trying to harden our schools," said Andrews. "Many of our schools are older and do not have a single point of entry. So we're working on all of those pieces. The state has given us money but we don't have enough money to cover all of that."

Mental health another hot topic at the roundtable.

"Mental heath is a huge thing that really needs to be addressed more often than it is. But instead, it gets pushed back as an excuse," said Kaitlyn Ricketts, Roosevelt Middle School 8th grader. "We need better guidance counselors that are more trained for us to talk about it."

"What I heard from the students was yes, we want to be protected but we don't want our schools to be prisons," said Palm Beach County commissioner Melissa McKinlay.

Urban League of Palm Beach County usually holds yearly roundtables with the community each year but said they chose this topic because of the fear following the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

"It can happen any anywhere. I have an 18-year-old son in high school and I tell him every day, be safe. I'll see you this afternoon," said Urban League president and CEO Patrick Franklin.

Students are hopeful these leaders can take their fears and turn it into solutions.

"I think it went well, I think it was a really great experience," said Ricketts.

Sen. Nelson said following the discussion, he will be presenting these comments and concerns toward possible legislation in Washington in the future.