ST PAUL, Minn. — Safety in schools is top of mind for many, following the school shooting in Nashville earlier this week.
Saint Paul Public Schools tackled that issue Thursday night in response to a number of violent situations within the district this year, including the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old student by another student at Harding High School in February.
Nearly 300 people registered for the community conversation and dinner at Washington Technology Magnet School to talk about keeping students safe.
"Schools now, unfortunately today, have to move beyond just having tornado drills."
Jackie Turner is the executive chief of administration operations for Saint Paul Public Schools. She's been in education for over 20 years and says conversations surrounding school safety are always evolving.
"We need to create and develop more safety measures," she said. "Locking our doors, wearing badges, having additional cameras, people at the door to welcome, security."
A few weeks before the deadly stabbing at Harding, a teen was shot in the head at a St. Paul recreation center. Then, days later, a staff member at a St. Paul Magnet School was grazed in the ear by a shot fired near school grounds.
Saint Paul Public Schools buildings do not have security resource officers in schools right now, but nearly 40 school support liaisons work across the district. They do not carry weapons.
The district has faced scrutiny, yet, Turner says Saint Paul schools are safe.
"Yes, they are safe," Turner said. "We can always improve that and that's part of the conversation tonight."
That's where Marnita Schroedl comes in. She's the CEO of Marnita's Table, a nonprofit that organized Thursday's event.
"So, from the moment that you walk in, you're not focused on, 'Am I going to speak?'" Turner said. "There will be four feast lines. One won't even open until 7:30 when iftar, which is the breaking of fast for Ramadan, happens."
Schroedl says more than 100 students are expected to attend, toys will be available for kids and both loud and quiet rooms will be available, along with art therapists.
"What it'll look like and feel like is a family reunion of a bunch of people from different cultures."
All coming together for a candid conversation.
"There are going to be students there who lost a friend, who had a friend who killed another friend. Understand that. People are going to be in different places," she said. "We cannot expect our children if we do not ourselves behave without violence in a public space. We should be able to come into a room like this and have a conversation about what we need for our students and our community in peace."
Following tonight's event, Marnita's Table will compile the notes taken to share the results with the school district and also post participants' feedback publically online.
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