After racial violence in one high school and “flash-mob violence” in another area, Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is vowing action, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Already this school year, 18,243 of the 161,00 students have been suspended; in the last 18 months, 274 students have been expelled; about 12,000 are truant each day. “I sincerely believe that we can break the cycle of violence and aggression that, as far as I’m concerned, is reaching epidemic proportions,” said Ackerman.
Officials will begin addressing the problem in four ways: reshaping how school police interact with students, starting a chapter of a national youth violence prevention network, asking a panel to make recommendations about violence, and requiring students sent to alternative schools to use “restorative justice” practices to learn about the consequences of their actions before they can return to school. Officials also will accelerate efforts to fix the rampant truancy. Ackerman envisions a “softer look” for school police – polo shirts instead of blue uniforms – and more interaction in the community between officers and students. Too many schools resemble “a police state,” she said.