Lawmakers push for safety advocate

Posted: April 29, 2011

Lawmakers are pushing to re-establish the school district's Safe Schools Advocate and to force schools to report violent incidents to an independent state agency.

Legislation sponsored by state Reps. John Taylor, a Republican, and Bill Keller, a Democrat, would fund the office - cut for budget reasons in 2009 - and place it under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency instead of the state Department of Education.

The lawmakers say that the independent monitoring system is needed to ensure that violent incidents aren't underreported. The measure unanimously passed in the House Education Committee this week.

State Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, chairman of the House Education Committee, said that the bill will not only keep schools honest when it comes to reporting, but also improve discipline practices and climate.

"Expulsions have their place, but teaching civility and understanding are a better way to go," he said.

District officials have attributed the spike of persistently dangerous schools to a jump in reporting incidents.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman previously expressed concern about whether a district policy on reporting crimes put the city's schools at a disadvantage and urged officials to reexamine how dangerous incidents are reported.

Although school personnel are legally obligated to notify police for the most egregious offenses, some teachers say they are pressured to sweep incidents under the rug.

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