School districts of Philadelphia CRACK DOWN ON VIOLENCE

Written by Patricia Hawke for

School districts of Philadelphia  aren’t taking it anymore. They are stepping up and cracking down on school violence. New mandates have been put in place regarding how the Philadelphia Public Schools will handle violence or even threats of violence from now on.
In the past, the filing of a police report against a student has been left up to the discretion of the principal. In a March 2007 meeting between School districts of Philadelphia Chief Executive Offices Paul Vallas, union representatives, and Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson new policies were established on how all Philadelphia Schools will handle the problems from now on.
The problem came into focus when recent reports said that teachers were being assaulted and principals weren’t calling the police – even when the teachers wanted them to. Under this new plan, the police will be called in, no matter what. The policy affects all students aged 10 and older. Students who assault or threaten school staff will receive an automatic 10-day suspension. Expulsion and criminal charges are also possibilities. Students who commit a violent act and are under the age of 10 will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some people are concerned that this new policy is too inflexible. The child advocacy group Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth are among the concerned. They worry that while some situations are serious and require the police, there are most likely others that do not. Another group that is skeptical is the Education Law Center, an advocacy group for parents and Philadelphia Schools students. They are concerned that this new policy will give teachers complete discretion over whether the police are brought in, and would like to see more collaboration on the decision with school principals.
While the district seems to appreciate opinions from around the city, it feels that it’s better for Philadelphia Schools to err on the side of caution. In addition to the arrest policy, there is also a new hotline for staff and teachers who want to report assaults.
Other new measures adopted by Philadelphia Schools in response to this issue include:
§         Training in prevention and disciplinary processes at the District’s nine most dangerous Philadelphia Schools.
§         Placement of a “Distinguished Educator” in those nine Philadelphia Schools to support teaching staff.
§         Assessment of the District’s alternative Philadelphia Schools and their student academic and behavioral performance.
Everyone can agree that it is important for children to attend school without threat of violent acts being committed upon them or their friends. The same can be said for teachers and staff; they deserve to be able to offer their gifts and talents of working with children without fear of harm. Philadelphia Schools are working hard to ensure that these rights are upheld.