DCPS says it plans to tackle gang issue with funds from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act

Creating a safer city by cracking down on gangs

Gang violence in Jacksonville is a community wide problem. That includes our schools.

Action News Jax has learned Duval County Public Schools officials plan to address the gang issue through new state funds from Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act as well as city money.

Action News Jax showed you exclusive video in 2016 of a suspected gang member being arrested at First Coast High School for attempted murder.

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That suspect, Steven Wiggins -- now 19-years-old -- is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

His case is just one example.

We spoke to a First Coast High School mom Friday who said gang membership is still a concern.

“Jacksonville, definitely, we need to do something about it but where do you start?” said Ruth.

That’s the question even city leaders have had a hard time answering.

Right now, initiatives are underway to try to stop the violence but at the school level, no gang-specific program has been implemented.

The school district said it’s hiring 36 new mental health therapists with funds from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act and another 28 are being hired through city funding.

In a statement to Action News Jax a district spokesperson said, "Gang prevention will be one of the many positive outcomes from the investment in mental health resources."

Parents aren’t the only ones concerned. Students are also worried -- and they’re the most impacted.

We spoke to a young student who said the root of the problem needs to be addressed.

“I think it also starts at home too with the parents and the parents influencing the kids,” said freshman student Iospeh.

Here’s the full statement from Duval County Public Schools:

"The school district’s response to the gang issue is comprehended in our significant expansion of mental health screening and mental health supports for students. The city, Kids Hope Alliance and the state are important partners in this effort.

Specifically, 36 new therapists are being hired using new state funds from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act. And 28 new therapists are being hired through funding from the City of Jax. Once all mental health therapists have been hired, that will bring the district total from 38 to 102.  This is in addition to the more than 370 professionals such as school counselors, psychologists, and social workers that provide mental health services to our students currently.

Our screening and expanded support resources will enable us to intervene with students and help prevent destructive behavior and decisions. Gang prevention will be one of the many positive outcomes from the investment in mental health resources."