School leader stresses importance of community when addressing teen violence

Students at Garinger High School have lost two students to gun violence in just a matter of weeks.

Channel 9′s Gina Esposito spoke with Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board member Dee Rankin about what’s being done to support students and a challenge the district said it’s facing.

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Rankin said the past few weeks have been difficult for students and staff at Garinger.

However, he said the issue of gun violence is a community-wide problem that everyone needs to come together to solve.

“The district, as a whole, is frustrated,” said Rankin, District 3, board of education. “I’ll say that because anytime we lose a student, we feel it.”

Two students died from gun violence within weeks of each other.

A 14-year-old student died in December 2023 in a shooting at his home.

On Tuesday, two students were shot. Daikwan Deese, 17 died. DJ Wilson Jr., 15, is still recovering in a hospital.

Wilson’s family told Channel 9 Thursday he’s feeling better but isn’t talking much due to trauma over losing his best friend.

“They’re kids,” Rankin said. “They don’t know how to deal with these things.”

Rankin said the school is doing its best to support students. However, he emphasized the importance of the community and its involvement in preventing gun violence among teens.

“I would not say this a specific problem at Garinger High School. I think this is a community-wide issue,” Rankin said. “If you know kids are dealing with things early, you can address and get them the proper help that they need and give them additional resources.”

One way Rankin said the district can identify ways to help students is through results from a social-emotional survey.

Unfortunately, he said the data released Monday won’t be of much help.

Rankin said about 55,000 out of the district’s more than 142,000 students completed it.

This school year, parents had to opt-in to surveys and Rankin said that led to fewer responses.

“The surveys taken at the beginning of the year are important for the district to identify where the students are socially and emotionally, and we don’t have enough students taking the survey,” Rankin said. “You can’t use the data. It’s not enough. It’s not enough to identify or utilize -- we need to focus here more strategically-- how we can serve our students better.”

Rankin said he’s hopeful more conversations will take place to find solutions and protect young people.