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Duval Superintendent Vitti: Schools Are Safe, Forrest High Should Be Renamed

Duval County Public Schools

Despite recent headlines, Duval County Public Schools officials say this week that violent incidents at school are actually on the decline.

Violent incidents on campus are down 46 percent over a six-year period, according to district statistics.

It's a hot topic around town after Circuit Court Judge Henry Davis called the district unsafe and said violent kids should be banned from the classroom in a letter published in the Florida Times-Union.

"Going into this school year, we recognized that we needed to do more, to make sure that every child is safe in every school, every day," said Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, appearing on First Coast Connect.

"I think the judge sees some of our most troubled youth, but you can't apply the experiences of those kids to all kids in all schools."

"We have to show progressive discipline. We cannot apply a philosophy of discipline where we're perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline."

"The research-based way to deal with this is to find out why children are making bad decisions, implement clear consequences, but find out what is going on with that child."

In his first year on the job, Vitti has focused on student safety, including launching a bullying hotline and beefing up spending on school security.

Vitti also said he's in favor of changing the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School.

There's no decision yet from a local advisory council looking at the issue of whether to change the name of the school. Forrest was a Confederate general who helped found the Ku Klux Klan.

"When I speak nationally, and people come up to me, the first thing they say is, 'Don't you have a high school named after a former leader of the KKK?' And I want Jacksonville to be known for what we're doing regarding children outcomes, graduation rates, reading proficiency, not the name of a school," he said.

You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissainJax

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.