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Leadership Symposium a Big Success

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice James Perry, J.D., was among the guest speakers at the inaugural Leadership Symposium “Safety, Security and the Law in Today’s Schools.”
Photo: Ciara Ocasio/Stetson University

As a first-time event, the hope was to bring experts in a particular field together with K-12 leaders, school administrators and others, including law enforcement.

The goal was frank conversation that would result in knowledge gain plus an exchange of ideas. 

The plan even involved dialogue that occasionally might be uncomfortable or, at the very least, impassioned.

Check all the boxes when it comes to the inaugural Nina B. Hollis Institute for Education Reform – Leadership Symposium “Safety, Security and the Law in Today’s Schools,” held June 17 at the Stetson Room on Stetson’s campus in DeLand.

Attendees included education leaders and law enforcement, among others, from numerous surrounding counties.

Appropriately 100 people — from assistant principals and school district leaders to law enforcement personnel — heard from guest speakers Glen Epley, Ph.D., an education professor at Stetson; Mercy Roberg, J.D., director of the Office of Professional Education at Stetson University College of Law; and former Florida Supreme Court Justice James Perry, J.D. 

Following, attendees separated into breakout sessions for in-depth conversations. 

The free event, sponsored by the Hollis Institute, attracted professionals from Volusia, Flagler, Seminole, Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties, in addition to the North East Florida Education Consortium (representing several other counties). The Hollis Institute is a comprehensive learning community that, in collaboration with local community leaders, district personnel, educational agencies and Stetson faculty, has created a model for reform that supports education.

Stetson Education Professor Glen Epley, Ph.D., discussed “free speech” and its implications through the past several decades.
Photo: Ciara Ocasio/Stetson University

Initial remarks were made by Bette Heins, Ph.D., education professor and endowed chair of the Nina B. Hollis Institute for Education Reform; and Chris Colwell, Ed.D., associate professor and chair of Stetson’s Department of Education.

Then Epley took the podium. His topic: “Reaching Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate — Legal Implications of School Regulation and Off-Campus Social Media.”

Epley led the attendees from the history Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines, which cemented students’ rights to free speech in public schools, to the current challenges of posting for all the world to see. 

Mercy Roberg, J.D., director of the Office of Professional Education at Stetson University College of Law, talked about “guns on campus.”
Photo: Ciara Ocasio/Stetson University

Roberg, a Stetson Law alumnae, talked about “Guns on Campus: Are They Helping or Hurting?” She pointed out that while Florida public schools are permitted to have gun-carrying guardians, many of the school districts are not on board with that decision, instead opting to use official law enforcement or school resource officers.

Roberg advised the use of substantial education among school leaders, commenting, “As an administrator, think about the reality of what will be happening at your school and at the district level.”

Finally, just before lunch and the breakout sessions, Perry discussed “Search and Seizure,” exploring aspects of the Fourth Amendment as they related to “reasonable” and “unreasonable” searches.

Perry began with this core issue for educators: “Students can be searched, but administrators must balance students’ rights with need for a safe school learning environment.”

The symposium, according to Colwell, hit the mark. 

“We really wanted to design the symposium so there would be a real opportunity for dialogue between scholars in the field on any particular topic and the practitioners themselves,” Colwell said.

Added Heins: “This symposium exceeded our highest expectations, and I look forward to next year’s event.”

-Michael Candelaria

Editor’s note: The Nina B. Hollis Institute for Education Reform’s second annual Leadership Symposium already has been scheduled — June 15, 2020, at Stetson.

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