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School Board’s Colleen Conklin Calls for “Task Force” on Gangs, But Aim Is Vague

| May 2, 2012

Gang signs thrive on diversity, too.

Citing the recent shooting spree at Ralph Carter Park and other less specified incidents, Flagler County School Board member Colleen Conklin Tuesday evening called for creating a “task force” on gangs in Flagler County, and, whatever is happening now regarding the matter, to change it. Andy Dance, who chaired the meeting in Sue Dickinson’s absence, was more skeptical, cautioning against creating “another layer” of bureaucracy before knowing whether it is warranted, while Katrina Townsend, the district’s student services director, on two occasions told Conklin and the board that several of the things Conklin was talking about are already happening, promoting Conklin to say that whatever is taking place isn’t working.

“We know what we’re doing, and it’s not working,” Conklin said, though she’d acknowledged on several occasions that she did not, in fact, know that a district group was already meeting regularly on related matters, or that the sort of awareness campaign she was favoring was also already taking place in some form. “It’s not so much about what we’re doing,” Conklin said. “Whatever we’re doing, we need to take another approach, because something’s got to change, and something’s got to give.”

Sue Dickinson, who chairs the board, sipports the move. “The task force is a little late in coming but it’s something the sheriff’s department should have come forward with a long time ago,” Dickinson said Wednesday. (She was absent from the meeting Tuesday, battling a high fever.) “There’s a lot more going on in the community than the public knows.”

But Conklin’s ideas at the end of Tuesday’s meeting remained general, and her assertions that Flagler County has a gang problem were never based on harder evidence than either the most recent news story or anecdotal evidence, as frequently restated as it is rarely substantiated, that gangs or similarly feared phenomena are a critical problem in the county. Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming has himself downplayed the issue. “Once we arrested all the Bloods, the gang issue basically disappeared,” he said in January. “We have gangs, but the gangs that we have are relatively juvenile related. They’re not high-crime type of gangsters. They total pretty much less than about 70, 75 people.”

andy dance flagler county school board

Andy Dance (© FlaglerLive)

It took Dance pressing Conklin on two occasions for more clearly stating what she was aiming for. “Is it acceptable that Miss Valentine continue with the path as a focus, a more structured focus group, with a goal and mission, or what was your ideas?” he asked. “I would like to know what’s going on before we go create another layer.” The end result was to bring back the matter at the next board workshop, in two weeks, so the administration has a chance to present what it’s been doing, and perhaps provide more solid evidence about the nature of the problem.

And Debbie Laury, who is running against Conklin in this year’s school board race, had no disagreement about making safety a priority in the schools, or of creating a broad-based task force as long as it included the sheriff’s office and all local governments (a make-up Conklin herself specified precisely to that extent, saying she is seeing the drug trade first-hand on the beach side, where she lives). “What I was concerned about was the fact that I’m no entirely sure that I take at face value Colleen’s concern because I’m wondering to what extent she was pandering,” Laury said. For herself, Laury said, she was still researching issues, would reserve judgment until then, and would be meeting with Superintendent Valentine at length Friday to discuss, among other things, matters of school safety.

In an election year, it’s easy for any candidate or incumbent to key into issues that automatically resonate with the public, though talk is never cheaper than at election time. On the other hand, it isn’t out of character, at election time or not, for Conklin to seize on a matter of concern and use her platform to raise public awareness: she did it on two issues Tuesday evening, the second focusing on the bad effect high-stakes testing is having on students and schools, while school districts themselves accept the state requirements without a peep.

Conklin’s remarks on gang violence took place soon after Gloria Kollosch, in a forceful, almost angry three-minute speech to the board, had described an incident involving her son and his friends, students at Matanzas High School, who were confronted by other Matanzas students, one of whom brandished a gun. The gun turned out to be an air-soft gun, but the consequence meted out to the student was not in line with the district’s code of conduct, Kollosch complained (though the incident took place outside school grounds, where school policy is not in effect: the school district’s authority can only extend so far.)

“The bottom line is, there are a number of people who don’t even think we have an issue,” Conklin said at the beginning of her remarks. “And first of all we do. Obviously, what took place on Sunday evening was of great co concern. It is a community problem that I think at some point, somebody needs to step up. We all need to take some kind of a leadership role.” On Sunday at Ralph Carter Park, an 18-year-old man fired six rounds from a gun either at other individuals or at a car speeding off, after a brawl. The shooter was arrested and jailed.

Colleen Conklin (© FlaglerLive)

Colleen Conklin (© FlaglerLive)

Conklin spoke of “really having a serious conversation about prevention, about how best to address the needs, and really how to join forces to really kind of address the issue, because we’ve got to get a handle on it, and I don’t think it’s something that the schools can solve by themselves.” After Valentine spoke of the meetings between district staff and its school cops, including a weekly, 7 a.m. meeting every Monday that appraises the district on weekend criminal issues that might have spill-over effects on schools, Conklin, based on conversations she’d had, turned the matter toward what students are experiencing on campus, where fear might get in the way of critical revelations.

“It’s this environment of not wanting to be a snitch, for a number of different reasons,” she said. “There’s a loyalty issue and a whole host of reasons, but in the conversations, how do we come up with a mechanism where kids can even feel free to share that information, and safely share that information. They don’t. They don’t feel comfortable sharing that information with an adult. They feel that things can be found out through technology and what not. In this particularly group I asked them what their thoughts were on Columbine, and they didn’t even know anything about Columbine.  I was shocked at how could they not know. The truth is, if nobody tells them about it, nobody talks about it, why would they know?”

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado attacked their classmates in the worst school carnage in the nation’s history, killing 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide. Such killings aside, however, schools are generally far safer environments than society at large, including in larger cities—and even more so in small counties such as Flagler.

“Ultimately,” Conklin said, “I can’t imagine that we’re not going to have to look at some resources to identify—is this the best use of our resources that we’re currently using? Do we have programs that are being funded properly even, for your preventative measures? Are we utilizing Pathways [the alternative school] in the way that it really should be utilized? Do we need to completely restructure that? I mean, there’s so many questions. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, we need an aggressive approach, whether it’s a task force, whether it’s this group and it just gets beefed up and we come up with an exact mission of what the group is going to do.”

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28 Responses for “School Board’s Colleen Conklin Calls for “Task Force” on Gangs, But Aim Is Vague”

  1. J says:

    Waste…it took these incidents to make something come to light.
    It has been going on now for minimum 4 years on my watch.
    The issue is cheap housing brings in shady folks from all over the country.
    There is no recourse than to move out.
    The code enforcement should be stricter, not lienent on issues.
    Animal control needs to step up.
    FCSO needs to do more watches and intervention where needed.
    The judges and laws have to be tougher and in occordence with the crimes.
    Bonds need to be nulified.
    Jails need to grow.

    Should I go on.
    A waste of time and breath on my part.

    • person says:

      why would we want jails to grow? we have enough criinals in there. just because us kids show our colors we are bad people? NO. you probably dont know how it is growing up on the streets when our next meal comes from hustle money thats the only way we know

  2. ric says:

    Dickinson, I saw your post on the basketball situation and I think the school board is worthless. We need board members who care and are not in it for the money and the ego trip.. These thugs are educated on my tax dollar and you and your fellow members are responsible for the results..

  3. Hmmm says:

    Maybe if we put the kids in a uniform at the parks it will get better ! ! !

    • Liana G says:

      Hmmm….great point! You know if these kids were in uniforms that would have meant they were engaging in some sort of team sport. Any disagreements would have ended in a good old fashion shoving and pushing and a few words. Definitely nothing extreme as this one sided wild wild west showdown. I like how you think ;-) We should absolutely try it! Peace….

  4. Thinking says:

    Gangs are nothing new, but they are more prevalent in number and less concealed than in the past. Many freely fly their colors on a regular basis. Mike Chitwood recently said he would never describe a young member as a “wannabe'” because they are more likely to be recklessly violent and readily kill in order to prove themselves. As the economy declines, gangs will strengthen out of economic necessity. It’s most likely becoming a matter of survival for the mass population of young people, out of school with no hope of jobs. What are they to do? The community of Palm Coast can only support so many lawn service businesses and home cleaning companies.

    I don’t think code enforcement or Animal Control will solve the problem, unless they are hiring en masse.

    • Linda H. says:

      How about we start by getting the Sheriff to admit we have a problem? Until he’s ready to commit resources to this, it goes nowhere. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m tired of hearing him say he’s got it handled.

      Clearly he doesn’t.

      As to the park, whatever happened to loitering laws? If you don’t have a reason for being there, move on. Why can’t the Sheriff’s department make sure there is a cruiser there at least once every half hour?

      Stop blaming it on the economy. Lots of people are out of work but you don’t see them robbing and shooting at people. These families must be held responsible for the behavior of these young adults or Palm Coast will shortly resemble Cabrini Green. As long as this stuff is being allowed to go on here, you can kiss any new businesses goodbye.

      And toy guns….waive it at somebody in a threatening manner and you should be arrested. If you don’t enforce laws, we will shortly become a lawless society.

      To Thinking: I can think of lots of things for these preditors to do besides service companies. How about an internship at a local small business or for the city and county government offices? No job does not allow you the right to harm or threaten others.

      • sj says:

        Maybe the sheriff’s department should start with suprise drug test for the officers! I know of several taken at the right time would not pass!
        Hard to arrest your friends you do drugs with.

    • David says:

      @Thinking says I like your post but i feel that the youth today have far more opportunities than what we had at their age. Their are a number of resources out there that can assist youth with there education, careers and goals after school. Many of these kids from this generation are raised today in this society without ever having to take on the responsibility of becoming an adult and a provider in society according to leading scholars because the way they are raised. This generation of youth has been dubbed “the sissy generation.”

  5. Liana G says:

    “The bottom line is, there are a number of people who don’t even think we have an issue,” Conklin said

    Then we need to raise the issue to public interest levels because we do have an issue.

    Maybe the school board may want to check out Nancy Lublin’s organization and utilize the power of ‘texting’ as a resource for students to seek out help.

    Nancy Lublin: Texting that saves lives:

    ” When Nancy Lublin started texting teenagers to help with her social advocacy organization, what she found was shocking — they started texting back about their own problems, from bullying to depression to abuse. So she’s setting up a text-only crisis line, and the results might be even more important than she expected.”


    • Linda H. says:

      Liana, this is a very good idea. Many stadiums and large public facilities are now using this for their security departments. They give you a texting address when you come in to use if you are threatened or see something bad happening.

  6. SAW says:

    The punks here in PC are indeed wannabe’s, and would not make a pimple on a rats a__s , as far being real gang members in somewhere like L.A . N.Y.or Chicago for example.

    No need at the present time for any more layers to be involved, the local police dept’s may be compiling info.and photo ID’s etc.on the more aggressive trouble makers. That info. should be kept current and passed on to every patrol officer within the county, so that they can quickly identify who these guys are.

    If and when our officers have the opportunity to put pressure on the so called leadership identified they should do so, then the followers will quickly get the message. If not, they will without a doubt only become more of a threat to our community in the future.

  7. PalmCoast says:

    Up for re-election this year:
    Election 2012

    School Board Member
    Colleen Conklin

    School Board Member
    Sue Dickinson

  8. Please says:

    Obviously there is an issue or we wouldn’t be reading these articles. Why don’t we stop placing the blame on the school board, the police, the mailman and everyone else and start blaming the parents. Why dont parents step up and start taking control of their CHILDREN? Why is an 11 year old at a park unattended? You people sit here and say how the parks are unsafe yet, you still let your child go there alone. Its obvious that the R section has the highest crime rate in Palm Coast, but you STILL let your child go there alone. These parks are patrolled and on video. You cant expect to send your 11 year old child to a “high crime” park ALONE and expect nothing bad to happen to them. Unfortuantely for these parents, it is not the job of the police, the Judge, and the rest of the community to parent THEIR kids. Get off your lazy butts and start teaching your kids how to grow up to be responsible adults and stop placing the blame on everyone else. The last thing we need is for the school board to get involved and make more of a mess than we already have. Your job as a parent is to parent your kids. Take control of their lives and stop forcing the rest of us to deal with your problem children.

  9. meh says:

    colleen conklin…. what can i say about her? she speaks more than trevor tucker, but her verbal diarrhea is just as useless and his silence. listening to them “brainstorm” out loud reminded me how much i wished i was at ralph carter park the other night

  10. David says:

    I think one of the problems is home owners and real estate companies who rent homes do not do a thorough background check on possible renters.. There is a home across the street from me that has had at least 6 renters in the last 2 years. The house and property is an eye sore. The owners live up North and rent out the house as an investment. Most of these renters seem to be low lives.

  11. PalmCoast says:

    PLEASE…your suggestion is to blame “parents” because our “public” parks and else where are unsafe? Do you think by a parent being at the park will stop anyone from firing a gun? A recent article where children and adults attended….shots were fired! What age do you think is safe for a child to go a “public” park (next to an elementary school) on his own? I would expect the school board to get involved since incidents have occurred right next to the school! Taxpayers pay the salary of the school board and the Sheriff department SO YES I would EXPECT them to earn their salary in “conjunction” with parents to help clean up these areas!!

    • Please says:

      PalmCoast, apparently you don’t understand. What I was saying is that if we PARENT our children from a young age and teach them that it’s not appropriate to fire guns in public, steal from vehicles, break into houses, and rob people at gunpoint, then we might have less of these problems. If you know most of these problem teens, their parents are either absent, on drugs, or dont care where their kids are. Point is, if parents would take more time out of their day to spend with their children and raise them appropriately, the less the community has to deal with them. I also would say that if you read the newspaper and know that a park is unsafe, don’t allow your child to go there alone. The Sheriffs Office is frequently patrolling that park as well as others. If you would like to pay a deputy or police officer to sit in a park 24/7 to make sure your child is acting as as civilized human being, then feel free to do so. However, most of the people living in this county are not willing to pay increased taxes for increased patrol. You might as well control what you can (your children) and stop placing the blame on other people and expecting them to do it for you. If we raise our children to act as responsible adults, then we don’t have so many unruly teens running around shooting at people. Plain and simple.

      • Nancy N. says:

        “Point is, if parents would take more time out of their day to spend with their children and raise them appropriately, the less the community has to deal with them.”

        And where’s this fantasyland that you live in where parents have all this free time on their hands? I don’t know a single parent who isn’t stretched to the bone financially OR time wise just trying to survive.

  12. PalmCoast says:

    PLEASE…I appreciate your reply!…I do agree parents need to parent their own children but many good children live here as well…”brain storming” ways to clean up the park vs lending a blind eye and just not going to the park will just allow the problem to spread! People should not be afraid of going out of their own doors….maybe taking one deputy and placing him near and around this area during peak usage time of the park may help (knowing this is a troubled area) Just seems that the Sheriff’s office is aware of troubled areas and having more of a presence in those areas may help to limit unwanted activity….maybe a volunteer neighborhood watch team would also help…..maybe some retired police officers would/could volunteer to be in these places of trouble and help clean these areas up! I would also like to hear what the school board can offer to help clean that park up since they are adjacent to the park

  13. Binkey says:

    How is the city’s park the responsibility of Flagler County Schools?

  14. BW says:

    Violence and kids is an issue. We can’t deny that. When a young man fires a gun into a public park in our community jeopardizing the safety of others and throwing his life away, we should take pause. We should look further as to why these things are happening.

    I don’t personally feel there is any one item we can put our finger on. Our Schools are not the foundation to our children’s value systems either. Values should be taught at home. School is just one of those places that our children should be demonstrating those values they’ve had instilled in them.

    I think the timing easily makes some misconstrue the item being brought up as “politics”, but I think Colleen Conklin is right in saying that we need to get serious about this and why our young people are turning to violence. Good for her to take such a bold step.

  15. meh says:

    there is a reason we have a police department, and a sheriffs office.. they do the protecting, the schools do the educating. stop passing off blame to the most convenient and realize the FCSB is not in charge of protecting kids at a public park.

  16. R Lewis says:

    Conklin spoke of “really having a serious conversation about prevention, about how best to address the needs, and really how to join forces to really kind of address the issue, because we’ve got to get a handle on it, and I don’t think it’s something that the schools can solve by themselves

    Colleen you are doing a great job keep it up and worry not about the nay sayers, we are very lucky to have you on this board. You have the best interest of the kids at heart so my family will vote for and support team Conklin!

  17. Thinking says:

    @ meh: This particular article is not about protecting kids at a public park. It is about the presence of and increasing problems with gangs in Flagler and surrounding counties. If I understood the article correctly, it seems that Ms. Conklin has a very good grasp on what is actually happening in the real world of these kids and young adults – not looking at it through rose colored glasses and taking a “should this” and “if only” that attitude. It appears she is trying to address the reality of the situation while her fellow members and community at large prefer to deny it’s happening and demand that she provide proof! Obviously there’s a bit of Rip Van Winkle going on if anyone in this town needs anymore proof. They would have to be blind, deaf, illiterate and completely socially isolated in order NOT to know about the gangs and gang related problems going on here. That’s like asking someone to prove our country is currently in an economic downturn at present. Hmm. People can deny and cast blame but that does nothing to address this harsh and ugly reality that is thriving in our community.

    Blaming the parents? holding the parents accountable? That just doesn’t hold water anymore. Again, a nice little fantasy from Leave it to Beaver days, but not this reality. I would guess some of you who blame the parents for not raising their children right, for not setting the proper responsible model of behavior, are people who do not believe in a woman’s right to choose. In other words, anti-abortion. Some of these parents didn’t want kids in the first place. Some had kids for many wrong reasons. But these kids didn’t ask to be brought here, and now they’re stuck. Kids are not responsible for their parents. And when you have a generation of parents who genuinely do not want their kids or give a hoot about them, the kids are going to gravitate to a substitute family. That is the very heart and soul, and the roots of kids seeking out gang membership. The need to belong to a semblence of family. This is reaity 2012. Thank you Ms. Conklin for takling this tough issue head on. You have many, many supporters willing to help in this effort, though it will be hard and maybe even impossible, but nothing one does for the benefit of a child/young adult is ever wasted.

    • meh says:

      @thinking, i understand the point of the article and do not disagree with you, however, i was at that board meeting and hearing her ramble on about how there needs to be a “special task force” to handle gang violence and then try to explain how they should handle it (in detail) almost made me burst out in laughter. I just think she should focus more on school board issues, like understanding how it all works, instead of protecting kids at a public park. if anything, the FCSO knows how dangerous this park has become and should make the obvious decision to make their presence a little more frequent.

  18. DD says:

    I think that educating staff on what to look for as gang signs and colors would be very helpful.Also a zero tolerance if caught using signs or wearing colors.This is a real problem in Palm Coast and is now coming into our schools. We need to get it under control before it gets worse than it is.Everyone has to be on the same page with the policy.

  19. Thinking says:

    @DD: Zero Tolerance means zero thinking. But the problem is not “now coming into our schools” it’s been here. So what purpose does it serve to forbid people from wearing certain colors? At the very least if the gang members ARE wearing their (real) colors, law enforcement (and others so informed) have a better clue of who and what they are dealing with. If I were in a teaching or law enforcement situation I would much rather have members self-identify rather than having them basically under-cover, so to speak. I’d rather know than not know, and information is power.

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