Miami-Dade School Board to implement gun violence prevention program

On the heels of a spate of school shootings across the country, the Miami-Dade County School Board on Wednesday gave approval to two gun violence prevention programs.

The board agreed to implement Rachel’s Challenge, a program that seeks to make schools more welcoming places and is based on the life and writings of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High shooting in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. Twelve students and one teacher were slain.

The board also agreed to explore implementing some of the training programs of Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that was created after the 2012 shooting in a Connecticut elementary school that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators. The proposal will come back for an official vote in November.

Nicole Hockley, the mother of 6 year-old Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the shooting, encouraged the board to adopt the program.

“There are ways to prevent these tragedies, and that’s really driven me — knowing that maybe if some had intervened, I might still have my son,” she said. “There’s a lot of violence in Miami-Dade, as in other areas, and I do think we can make a difference in teaching our kids.”

Hockley said Sandy Hook Promise is active throughout the state of Ohio and is beginning to roll out in Connecticut. She said Miami-Dade is the largest school district to show interest in the program. The district is the fourth-largest in the country, with 350,000 students. Board members said they’d like to see the program implemented in all of its more than 400 schools.

Rachel’s Challenge will be implemented in 18 middle schools across the county.

“There’s no way we can predict when someone is going to harm our children, but there is an opportunity for all of us . . . to work together to provide every opportunity that we have at our disposal to make sure children come to us every day healthy,” said board member Lawrence Feldman, who proposed bringing the Sandy Hook program to Miami-Dade.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga