Forest Audelia Boxing Gym. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

The Dallas City Council will meet for a virtual budget workshop today to discuss cuts to the city’s budget, and two successful Lake Highlands programs may be on the chopping blocks. Council members from other districts have proposed eliminating funding for the Forest Audelia Boxing Gym and for school resource officers (SROs) at Lake Highlands High School and a few other campuses.

Most Dallas campuses are patrolled by Dallas ISD police officers, but schools like Lake Highlands use DPD SROs, who get to know students by name and develop relationships with troubled teens or kids who may be victims of bullying or domestic violence. When crimes occur in the neighborhood or on campus, school officials say, the SROs usually get the 4-1-1 by sundown.

The Forest Audelia Boxing Gym opened in 2017 in a neighborhood regularly listed as one of Dallas’ most dangerous. DPD officers work with young athletes – male and female – to boost fitness, improve discipline and surge self-esteem. Some students develop an interest in boxing and compete at tournaments all over the state. Others workout for other sports and enjoy camaraderie at the gym as they lift out of difficult circumstances.

“One of the most impactful projects for serving our city, encouraging our youth and reducing crime for our community is under attack,” wrote Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough on Facebook. “Several Councilmembers have proposed a budget cut to eliminate the Dallas Police Department PAL (Police Activities League). The Forest Audelia Boxing Gym has provided hundreds of kids mentorship, discipline, encouragement and safety for years now. At a time when our youth needs positive activities and productive relationships with police officers more than ever, it is incomprehensible why we would eliminate PAL and the Youth Explorers program which has served 1000’s of kids over the years in amazing ways.”

“Keeping our kids safe and active should be our highest priority,” said McGough, who chairs the city’s public safety and criminal justice committee.

Cutting the DPD’s PAL program would save $908,204 from the city’s proposed $3.8 billion budget. Eliminating the DPD SROs would save $628,756.

Exchange Club leader and White Rock Valley Neighborhood Association President Mark Holmes is one of many Lake Highlands neighbors scheduled to speak at today’s meeting and urge the council to keep both programs.

“My district expended tremendous efforts to establish that gym as a youth center for training, safety and youth outreach by police to stand against the criminal elements that dominated that area and would once again love to reintroduce themselves in the gym’s absence,” Holmes will say. “I was at the ribbon cutting with police and area residents and experienced the excitement and hope of what that gym symbolized then and now.”

“I am also opposed to any cuts that would negatively impact our School Resource Officers,” Holmes will add. “The data around incident reduction more than substantiates the positive impact those officers have had specifically at Lake Highlands High School.”