Letters to the Editor

Posted: November 18, 2011

Police, district focus on school safety

The Inquirer spent more than three full pages on Nov. 6 to tell a story about the training and deployment of police officers in the Houston Independent School District ("Armed with guns and understanding"). Much of the four-story package was devoted to detailed profiles of Houston cops working in schools, maintaining safety, and acting as important role models for teenagers.

The very same story could have been written about Philadelphia. But The Inquirer ignored the facts, disregarded my statement that city police have been stationed in schools for more than 30 years, and only once noted that Philadelphia officers are "assigned" to city schools.

Today, there are about 40 fully equipped police officers stationed in 22 schools - officers like Gregory West, who has worked inside Overbrook High School for six of his 21 years in the department. West and his partner, Officer Andrew Prosser, know that students there appreciate the work they do because graduates often come back to the school to tell them so. West works closely with school police, including patrolling the school grounds and monitoring the Safe Corridors initiatives.

Another group of 40 officers roves among schools in a particular area of the city, providing services from monitoring morning arrival and afternoon dismissal to addressing truancy issues. Among them are Officer John Coates and his partner James Hackley, of the 25th Police District, who daily deal with gang violence and truancy and work closely with school police.

The city and the School District are working on a variety of issues to improve school safety. Comparing those efforts to programs in other cities is entirely appropriate, but The Inquirer does not serve its readers when it chooses to ignore the basic facts of school policing in Philadelphia.

Everett Gillison, chief of staff to Mayor Nutter and deputy mayor for public safety, Philadelphia

Let taxpayers vote on charter schools

Tuesday's editorial "Follow Princeton's lead" promoted the idea of mergers for municipalities and school districts. But what is the point of consolidating if large-scale expansions of charter schools occur? Any taxpayer savings from consolidations will be absorbed by charter-school organizations. This illustrates why there is a great need for a law that allows taxpayers to approve or reject local charter schools by vote, just as taxpayers vote on local school budgets and school construction. Unfortunately, the school policies of Govs. Christie and Corbett do not have taxpayers or public school children's interest at heart.

Gina D'Arcangelo Russo, Vineland

Differences in Mideast conflict

Like Trudy Rubin, I was in Israel recently, but I visited underground hospitals and backyard bomb shelters, learning about treatment of mass casualties from surgeons who coped with a wave of massacres in the last decade, as Palestinians maimed and murdered Israelis by the dozens in premeditated attacks ("Coddling pro-settlement militants imperils Israel," Sunday).

In Sderot, a town built inside the 1949 armistice lines, every home has a bomb shelter to protect its residents from ongoing rocket fire from Gaza. Unlike Israel's extremists, who largely confine themselves to graffiti, Palestinian extremists and their allies fire rockets into Israeli towns, and have stockpiled tens of thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

There is another difference between Arab and Israeli extremists. In Israel, the government restrains them. In Palestinian ruled Gaza, Palestinian Authority-controlled territories, and Lebanon, they are the government.

John R. Cohn, Philadelphia, john.r.cohn@gmail.com

No longer the superpower by default

Trudy Rubin ("Coddling pro-settlement militants imperils Israel," Sunday) and Victor Davis Hanson ("Why bother with the weakest of nations," Thursday) argue that we should maintain our role as world protector and superpower, so that "weak" nations like Taiwan and Israel can preserve their ethnic and political character. The problem with such arguments is that we are no longer the superpower by default that we were in the 1950s, and our leadership has chosen to undermine the rights of U.S. citizens - attacking our right to privacy; reducing our urban spaces to armed camps; allowing corporations that cannot vote to overwhelm the humans who do; providing protection to banks and corporations while undermining the jobs and prosperity of average Americans. Those who attack Social Security, Medicare, and health reform as unaffordable, while arguing for a continuation of our sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan on grounds of "national honor," have given up our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Ben Burrows, Elkins Park

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