In opening the forum, publisher Greg Osberg said the event was the first of many to air solutions to public problems.
Earlier this spring, The Inquirer in a seven-part series, Assault on Learning, described the pervasive climate of violence that stifles learning in city schools. The yearlong investigation found that there were more than 30,000 serious incidents in the schools during the last five years.
On an average day, 25 teachers, students or staff are victims of violent crimes. Too often, the violence was not reported or reported late, the investigation showed.
In his opening remarks, Mayor Nutter said a city plan on safe schools to be released in a matter of weeks would address the underreporting problem.
"We need to break down the culture of trying to solve problems at the school level and not reporting them," he said to applause.
Schools must not be penalized for accurately reporting violence, he added.
"If we want safe schools, if we want people to be safe, then we need good, accurate information about what's going on. People should never be penalized for telling the truth."
Nutter said officials were also considering whether to assign armed Philadelphia police officers to violent schools.
"We believe there may be roles for some specially selected and highly trained officers in schools, he said. "No decisions have been made, but it is certainly a discussion worth having."
Placing police inside schools is not "a total answer" or "comprehensive solution" to school violence, he emphasized.
Proposed budget cuts to help close the district's $629 million gap would cut funding for school district police officers by $3.3 million, he said.
Addressing the violence that victimizes many students and disrupts classrooms must involve a "range of actions" on the behalf of students, teachers, city officials, and the larger community.
"Parents have to step up and take responsibility for their children in and out of schools," he said.
Many in the standing-room-only crowd broke into cheers when Nutter called for better social services for students who commit or are victims of violence.
"The school district must do a better job of providing counseling, treatment, and social support for students and families addressing stress and trauma," he said.
Wanda Walker, whose daughter was victimized in a city school and now attends a cyber charter, urged the other panelists not to forget the needs of the victims.
She said school counselors were available to help the offenders but not the victims.
Hanna and Jack Stollsteimer, former city safe schools advocate, sparred in heated exchanges on the treatment of teachers and staff and the district's policy of zero tolerance toward violent offenders.
"Nothing has changed in 10 years," Stollsteimer said, despite a series of reports on school violence. "The district is not doing the most simple and moral duty it has to the citizens of Philadelphia - protecting their children."
"The district is the worst employer in Philadelphia," said Stollsteimer, adding that school district police officers have been transferred for reporting incidents of violence against the wishes of principles.
Hanna said the district may need to remove "the reporting structure from the hands of principals" and allow people with law enforcement background to make the call.
Among other topics were zero tolerance for student violent offenders and making schools welcoming for parents.
School violence is more than just a district problem, Hanna said. It's a city problem - a community problem.
Addressing the problem, will take the "will and leadership" of everyone at the table, Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, said to applause.
Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 215-854-2759or email@example.com.