About 500 Philadelphia school principals gathered yesterday for a three-day summit on school safety focused on prevention rather than discipline and law enforcement, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We can’t arrest our way to higher student achievement,” said incoming Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. “We can’t suspend our way to higher student achievement. We can’t arrest or suspend our way to safer schools.” Principals will hear about ways to nurture an environment of mutual respect between staff and students, and to recognize when students are acting out because they are bored or troubled and have been exposed to trauma. They will hear the most effective ways to discipline children who have been traumatized.
Hite’s remarks left no doubt that creating safer schools and better learning environments for students would be a priority as the school year opens for 146,982 students on Sept. 7. The district announced that the Stoneleigh Foundation of Philadelphia is funding a two-year fellowship of Jody Greenblatt, who is charged with developing a school safety and climate strategy for the district. A seven-day Inquirer series “Assault on Learning” in 2011 found that violence in the district was widespread and underreported, and that violent acts occurred in virtually every corner of the district. The series showed that the district had 30,000 serious incidents over five years and that its main intervention program for helping students was little more than a paper shuffle.