Zero tolerance should be used to establish a school culture "where respect is the order of the day and supports are in response to the individual needs of the students," he said.
"I'm not suggesting that enforcement is not important," he said. "It's just insufficient to deal with what we need to do with every single student."
Teaching and learning in a thriving environment requires safe schools, Hite said. "It requires safe schools. Not just the notion of a safe school, but the feeling of one."
He also said he wanted district families "to have every confidence that our schools are safe havens for their children."
According to school-district figures, violent behavior has dropped over the past five years, from 3.5 incidents per 100 students in the 2008-09 school year to 2.66 last year.
Hite later told reporters that he would soon establish a department of student services to meet the needs of students and their families.
He kicked off his address by buttering up the audience.
"I'm extremely excited to be in this great school district. Yes, I said 'great school district,' " Hite said to a round of applause. He thanked them for working "in some pretty significant circumstances."
Lisa Kaplan, principal of the Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia, said Hite "seems to truly have an educator's point of view."
"He brings an energy to the district and hopefully brings us a tighter vision so that principals will be re-engaged and feel supported by his work," Kaplan said.
She added that "it was critically important" that he was present Monday.
"To me, it was showing that he's ready to take on Philly," she said.
Contact Regina Medina at 215-854-5985 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaMedina.