2008-06-20 / Top Stories

Addressing Gun Violence Without Using The Words

By Howard Schwach

Queenie Mekada, a parent representativeQueenie Mekada, a parent representativeThe Department of Education and local school principals hosted a forum on gun violence in Rockaway at PS 105 in Arverne last Tuesday night that was sparsely attended and that drew mixed reviews from those who attended.

To some at the meeting, it could be

summed up in the statement of a parent who stood next to a Wave reporter at the meeting, but who asked not to be identified because he feared retribution against his child.

"We've been listening to them talk for nearly two hours and not once has anybody uttered the words 'gun,' 'drugs,' 'gangs,' or 'black on black crime.' How can you address a problem when you don't acknowledge what the problem is?"

A number of school and law enforcement experts spoke at the June 17 meeting, billed as the culmination of a number of meetings to draw up a program to address the violence that has left three dead and many wounded over past months.

Among them were Claude Monereau, the principal of Middle

Gun Violence

Claude Monereau, the principal of Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway, represented the other principals in the district.  Claude Monereau, the principal of Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway, represented the other principals in the district. School 53, the school attended by Brandon Bathea, who was killed at the Redfern Houses last month.

He said that he had written a letter to Al Sharpton, asking him to come to Rockaway to address the problem of black on black violence.

"We have young black men turning on each other," he said. "We have to come together and direct our energies to the eastern end of the peninsula. Sharpton never responded, so we have to do it ourselves. East and west have to come together to bring one focus, one voice to the problem."

The tone of the meeting, however, was set by Queenie Mekada, a parent representative from PS 42.

"Don't look at the number of people in this room," she said to the 100 people who attended the meeting, most of them school personnel. "We are here to begin the dialogue. This is our busiest time of the year and the school people are here to begin the road to end this problem." "We are responsible for our kids," she added. "We have to save them. We need the press to tell the good side of the story, not just the truth about the bad stuff." from PS 42, stoked the meeting with her rhetoric. continued from page 8

Some of the small crowd that attended the school meeting to address teen violence in Rockaway. Some of the small crowd that attended the school meeting to address teen violence in Rockaway. Captain Caruso, who is the commanding officer of the unit that sends police officers to patrol selected schools, pointed out that there is hardly any crime inside the schools themselves. "Our problems come around the school, in the neighborhood," Caruso said. "We need more resources to patrol the train stations and the bus stops." He promised to ask the police commissioner for more resources for Rockaway, which earned him applause from the audience.

Donna Brailsford, a representative of the Department of Education's Office of Youth Development, presented the outline for dealing with what was continually called "our unfortunate situation."

That includes a "Peace Day" rally on June 26, workshops, a community resource guide that lists things for teens to do while school is not in session, internships, mentoring, and an increased program of youth athletics and recreation.

Michelle Lloyd-Bey, the superintendent for District 27, promised increased resources to the fight against violence. Michelle Lloyd-Bey, the superintendent for District 27, promised increased resources to the fight against violence. "There is nothing new here," a parent said as she exited the school. "Nobody knows what to do, so they keep trying the old solutions that didn't work in the first place."

Donna Brailsford, from the Department of Education's Office of Youth Development, laid out the school plans for fighting youth violence. Donna Brailsford, from the Department of Education's Office of Youth Development, laid out the school plans for fighting youth violence. The panel included officials from the Department of Education and the New York City Police Department. The panel included officials from the Department of Education and the New York City Police Department.

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