Presence of accused rapist at Broward school scares parents

Parents attended a town hall meeting Wednesday at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek with hopes of discussing why an accused 18-year-old rapist is being allowed to go to school there. They left disappointed. 

Gibson Sylvain was arrested in August, after he was accused of raping a woman at a bus stop just north of West Hills Borough Boulevard.

A father said he wanted to know why parents weren’t notified. A mother said she wanted to know if there were any security measures in place to avoid more victims at the school. 

Broward School Board member Nora Rupert said Sylvain had a right to an education. 

“We value the safety of our students, our community and our family and there’s more to the story than you all know,” Rupert said. 

The parents’ questions were not answered at the meeting. They want the school board to organize a town hall to discuss Sylvain’s presence at the school. Sylvain was set to appear in court next week.

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How active shooters changing school security in US

Fire drills became popular decades ago after several deadly fires triggered changes in safety codes. Today, teachers and children are preparing for something entirely different: mass shootings.

A gunman tried to break into a remote Northern California elementary school on Tuesday but officials say, the quick action of school officials “saved countless lives and children.”

The building went on lockdown, a teacher rushed to block a classroom’s door with a computer and students ducked under their desks. Those responses have become the new normal as more schools are being forced to adopt more elaborate safety measures.

Two-thirds of schools in the U.S. conduct active-shooter exercises and nearly all of them have a plan if a shooter comes into the school, the Government Accountability Office found in a recent survey of schools.

“I think everybody, no matter where you are, needs to think about this. If you’re in a school, in a college, if you go to the movies we should all be thinking about what are we going to do if a crisis breaks out right here,” said Christopher Combs, FBI special agent in charge, after last week’s church massacre in Texas.

This year, there has been about one mass shooting every single day, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun-related violence in the U.S.

‘You might lock down, you might try to escape’

Sara Rounds and her colleagues recently took part in a series of simulated active-shooter scenarios at their western Indiana school.

“When I did enter teaching, you know, this was not a thought in my head. But this is where we are now,” Rounds, a first-grade teacher at Jackson Township Elementary in Clay County, Indiana, told CNN affiliate WTHI.

Through training programs like ALICE — Alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate — Rounds and other teachers are learning how to barricade doors with desks and chairs, run away from gunfire and throw everything from pencils to staplers at a potential shooter.

“It’s not really defense techniques, it’s not martial arts of any kind. It basically just gives them options,” Jeffrey Fritz, the Indiana school’s superintendent told CNN affiliate WTHI.

“You might alert, you might lock down, you might try to escape, it just depends on the situation,” he added.

But training teachers is just the first step. The school plans to teach students how to make choices during an active shooter situation.

“We are going to teach this to the kids in a very kind way, not using harsh words, kid-friendly, so I think our kids will really grasp on to this,” Rounds said. “This is nothing new here to society, it’s in the news a lot. They understand what our world is going through, unfortunately.”

Don’t freeze, have a plan

Those who plan for an active shooting situation are more likely to react quickly rather than freeze, said Katherine Schweit, a former senior FBI official and an active shooter expert.

“We’re not talking about making a decision on what to make for dinner. We’re making a decision on how to survive,” she said.

During the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, people delayed evacuations or denied the possible danger rather than respond, according to a 2013 report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“People freeze. And if you train yourself to work past freezing, past the moment of hesitation, you save your life. Or you save a life of another,” Schweit added.

It is recommended that if possible, Schweit said, that victims caught in shootings run as fast and far as possible.

“I’m a total believer in run, run, run if you can (to) safety. Because you can’t get killed if you’re not there. But if you have to hide or fight, you have to be prepared to do that,” she added.

Other security measures

Active shooter training is relatively new in some schools across the US. For years, schools have employed school safety officers, lockdown drills and implemented security systems that require visitors to sign-in and produce photo IDs.

After the Columbine shooting in 1999, schools installed metal detectors and shifted restrooms away from entryways. While just a few weeks ago, a private school in Florida began selling bulletproof panels for its students’ backpacks.

Schools across the country have also created “threat-assessment teams” to prevent shootings by identifying behaviors like mental illness, drug abuse and disruptive conduct in students.

Initially, all Virginia public schools were required by law to create those task forces. But now, dozens of schools across the country have adopted the practice.

In 2002, Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas created the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) in partnership with several Central Texas law enforcement agencies to address the need for active shooter training.

Since its creation, more than 85,000 law enforcement officers have been trained through the program.

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Student accused of raping woman allowed to return to Monarch High School

Parents are expected to voice their concerns to school officials Wednesday night after a 19-year-old student was allowed to return to school after he was arrested on accusations that he raped a woman last year on Halloween.

According to an arrest affidavit, the victim fell asleep at a bus stop about 2:30 a.m. Oct. 31, 2016, when Gibson Sylvain pulled her arm, leaned over her and said, “I want you to suck my d***.”

Authorities said the victim said, “No please, no. I don’t do that,” but Sylvain raped her orally and vaginally. 

According to the affidavit, the victim reached into her jacket for her pepper spray at one point, but it malfunctioned and she sprayed it on herself. 

The victim said she screamed for help and continued to tell Sylvain “no.” Sylvanin then told the woman, “I don’t want to hurt you,” authorities said. 

The woman told detectives that she eventually stopped resisting when Sylvain raped her and pretended to enjoy it because she was afraid that Sylvain would kill her using the concrete bus bench.

The attack last for about 15 to 20 minutes, authorities said.

According to the affidavit, DNA taken from the victim’s sweater was linked to Sylvain.

Detectives believe Sylvain also tried to rape a woman on June 30 at the same bus stop.

The victim in that case told police that a man approached her and told her to “suck my d***.”

The woman said she refused and the man knocked her to the ground and repeatedly punched her in the face.

Police said the woman wasn’t raped, but because she was attacked at the same location, at the same time of day and there were similar circumstances surrounding the attack as last year’s case, detectives believe Sylvain might be the culprit.

However, authorities said there are no witnesses, DNA evidence or surveillance video available in the second case.

Records show Sylvain’s pre-trial release was modified Aug. 25 and he was allowed to return to school between 6:20 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

His next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21.

A post on the Coconut Creek Residents Community Forum Facebook page urged parents who have children that attend the high school to attend a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the school to voice their concerns. 

“If you have a child in Monarch, please be there … We need to stand as one!” the post read. 

Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman Nadine Drew said in an email that the district is “committed to providing safe and secure learning environments for all students.”

She would not comment on Sylvain due to student privacy issues, but said, “The District is required to follow laws governing students’ educational rights.”

The town hall meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. 

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More teens accuse Broward school employee of sex abuse

A 13-year-old boy told detectives Robert Grant, a Broward County Public Schools’ employee, drove him to school to play basketball Aug. 4.

Grant, a 27-year-old Coral Springs Middle School custodian, also spent time with children after school to help with sports teams. Linda Lazon, the mother of a student at Coral Springs Middle School, said Grant was someone who the children trusted. 

Coral Springs Police Department Detectives believe Grant violated that trust. The teen told them that while they were stretching Grant started to cross boundaries. The boy said he first adjusted his boxers and put his hand up the open leg to touch his genitalia saying that it would help his leg get better. 

Grant has been in jail since October for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and sexual battery of a minor. The charges have piled up and he was denied bond. When he appeared in court Wednesday, he was facing 13 counts of the same charge. 

A 15-year-old boy told police officers Grant drove him to the school to help him with his math homework. When they were finished, they went to the gym and Grant told the teen it was time to stretch. The boy said Grant ended up performing oral sex on him and he “froze” in fear. 

Grant won some hearts while he worked at the school. Rianna Sirjue, a former student of Coral Springs Middle School, said Grant was her football coach. She said she was sad to hear about the accusations.

“It’s hard to believe because he was such a  nice guy,” Sirjue said.

Marybeth Molina agreed. Her daughter said Grant was one of her favorite custodians. 

“He would come into the classroom to talk to the kids a lot,” Molina said. “He was pretty popular.”

Detectives were asking anyone with information about any other cases of abuse to call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477. 

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FSU president suspends all fraternities, sororities after student’s death

Alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the death of a Florida State University student from Pompano Beach who died after an off-campus fraternity party, police said.

Andrew Coffey was found dead Friday morning after an off-campus fraternity party Thursday night in Tallahassee.

Although there are indicators that alcohol may have been a factor in Coffey’s death, investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy, Tallahassee police Chief Michael DeLeo said Monday.

DeLeo said investigators have interviewed more than 15 people, and additional interviews are planned.

Police arrived at the home on Buena Vista Drive shortly after 10:30 a.m. Friday and found Coffey unresponsive.

Coffey was a pledge of the FSU Pi Kappa Phi chapter and a graduate of Pompano Beach Senior High School.

FSU President John Thrasher announced Monday that all fraternities and sororities on campus have been suspended indefinitely.

“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university,” he said. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”

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Video shows kids trapped in bus after NYC terror attack

Sebastian Sobczak was walking down the street near the World Trade Center when he heard yelling and saw a mangled yellow school bus. With camera in hand, he went to take stock of what was happening and spotted several children inside the bus.

“They’re stuck in there!” the bus driver yelled.

“Oh my God!” Sobczak said. “Can you call 911? Oh my God!”

Video that Sobczak provided to CNN shows the hectic moments after a man drove a rented truck into cyclists and pedestrians Tuesday on a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people in the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since 9/11.

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the attack, then slammed into the school bus, authorities said. The collision stopped the suspect, and he exited the truck brandishing imitation weapons before police shot him and took him into custody.

The suspect’s white truck can be seen in the background of Sobczak’s video, but the focus is on students stuck in the caved-in bus. Two students can be seen through a window, and another appears lodged underneath a hunk of mangled metal.

Police quickly arrived on the scene, and later in the video footage, first responders work to rescue a trapped child.

The crash injured two children and two adults, New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said Tuesday.

And Sobczak said he’s unlikely to forget what he saw.

“The horror of hearing that bus driver and those screaming kids will haunt me,” he said.

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