Providence mayoral candidates voice concerns, solutions for school threats


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Mayoral candidates, Brett Smiley, Nirva LaFortune, and Gonzalo Cuervo took the stage at Johnson & Wales University, addressing some of the city’s greatest challenges, including safety of students in the district.

The three agreed that protocol and mental health must be prioritized in the future, rather than increased presence of school resource officers.

“We’re not going to police our way out of school safety,” said Smiley.

The forum comes just 13 days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, claimed the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers.

LaFortune cited, “an increase in social and emotional support in our schools.” Meanwhile, Cuervo explained, “We have to have better protocols and better training for everyone involved.”

Last week, Mayor Jorge Elorza called for the termination of Nathanael Green Middle School’s principal, after a report of a potential gun on school grounds. The report was relayed to police about 90 minutes later.

No gun was ultimately found.

“As an alum of Nathanael Green Middle School, we need to respond to these things right away, because a tragic incident can happen in seconds,” said LaFortune.

Smiley explained, “I would hope that every principal in Providence if there’s a report of a firearm — or any other threat of violence — that they would call the police immediately. I mean, it’s inexcusable.”

All candidates agreed Monday that systematic change must be made to ensure the safety of Providence students.

“I think there is an opportunity for us to dig a little bit deeper and really understand where are the failures, where are the weak points, where are the weak links in this chain?” asked Cuervo. “To ensure that we make our children’s safety a top priority in Providence.”

Last week, the Providence Superintendent said they are reviewing the Nathanael Green Middle School incident, adding the principal has the support of the staff.

Providence has five SRO’s to service the nearly 40 schools in the district

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