Safety is focus of school report

Lorene Cary, new member of the School Reform Commission, presents safety report at meeting.
Lorene Cary, new member of the School Reform Commission, presents safety report at meeting. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: January 18, 2012

IT'S NO SECRET that the Philadelphia School District has budget woes, resulting in layoffs last month and expectations of more cuts this year.

But that shouldn't keep parents, educators and the district from eliminating bullying and violence, School Reform Commissioner Lorene Cary said last night at an SRC meeting.

"Often what we say is 'Oh, well, the SRC has cut everything there is, so what can we do?' " Cary said. "In fact, we have to do it anyway. The children are in school every day, and we've got to figure out what else can we do."

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Safe Schools presented its report last night at the meeting, recommending that the district provide adequate social-support services for at-risk students and their families and clarify the relationship between district police and the city Police Department, among other suggestions.

The report found inconsistencies in the reporting of serious incidents and "possible" crimes.

The commission recommended that incidents be reported to the Incident Control Desk at district headquarters and that potential crimes be reported to city police. The commission's policy-implementation committee developed protocol for reporting offenses.

Mayor Nutter said students need to feel safe coming to school and stressed that there was "no more important factor" in education than school safety, aside from education itself.

"And those teachers have to feel safe teaching in those schools, and the community has to feel safe living in that school-based environment," he said.

Kay Hu, who chairs the city Human Relations Commission, presented a report prompted by the racial violence at South Philadelphia High, which can be found at www.wideningthecircle.org.

Conflict between different groups is prevalent in schools throughout the district, which does little to prevent or resolve them, according to the HRC report. Hu said the commission would help train staff at the district's 270 schools to prevent harassment and raise awareness of bullying.

Regina Austin, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who also serves on the safety commission, said in an interview that there "is a lack of understanding what bullying is. We are getting the adults to be vigilant from the bottom to the top.

"That's going to make for a safer school."

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