Criticized for its handling of teacher assaults, the Philadelphia School District announced a crackdown, including the immediate establishment of a teacher safety hotline and more stringent penalties for offenders, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson promised to have police respond to all calls of school assaults and make arrests if the victim approves. Previously, school officials were given some discretion on whether an assault should result in an arrest. Any student 10 or older who assaults a staff member or threatens an assault will be suspended for 10 days and recommended for expulsion. “We would rather err on the side of overreacting,” said chief school officer Paul Vallas. The hearing process will sort it out.”
The announcement followed a serious assault on a high school teacher last month and allegations by teachers that not all violent acts in the 173,000-student district were being reported and handled appropriately by principals. “Now is the time to do something before somebody gets killed,” said Ted Kirsch, president of the 18,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “It is that serious.” Kirsch doesn’t think the hotline will help and said the school sytem should add nonteaching assistants and other security staff to schools to prevent problems.