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Pine Bluff city leaders discuss concerns following student protests

Following protests from students in the city, Pine Bluff legislators held a town hall meeting for high school students who say they don't feel safe.

PINE BLUFF, Ark — Discussions of Pine Bluff's education continue following concerns from parents and students in the city.

The town hall, hosted by Pine Bluff legislators, was covered those concerns from the K-12 schools in the city. 

This is the first town hall since the pandemic started, but Pine Bluff legislators said they have hosted these in years past.

One of the main focuses of this specific town hall was gun violence in the community, especially the incidents that impact the students at Pine Bluff High School.

"Although there has been previous precautions put in place, I feel like it could have been done at the beginning of the year before the negativity started," said Kee'Darie Bush, a senior at Pine Bluff High School.

Bush spoke at the town hall to tell people what her concerns are as a student, which included better security on campus, education, and implementing more extracurricular activities.

These things were also on the minds of others that were in attendance.

One Pine Bluff School District father suggested 'restorative justice,' a method that he said is used to keep kids in school, allowing them to communicate their disagreements rather than expelling or suspending students.

The town didn't just see appearances from students and parents either, Rep. Vivian Flowers of District 17 was also in attendance.

"There's no way that we can effectively address the needs and issues in our community without addressing education," said Rep. Flowers.

District data for Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel, and White Hall were handed out--the pandemic made it difficult for many students as proficiencies in reading, math, and literacy all dropped.

"As we look at how we can reform what we are doing in our schools, I think we have to listen to students and I think we have to keep in mind that these are schools and they exist to educate young people," said Rep. Flowers.

Education Secretary Johnny Key was also invited to the town hall but according to Rep. Flowers, Key declined and said he wanted to wait until all local meetings were done before speaking to the public.

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