School Violence Crisis in Philadelphia’s Public Schools

Administrators within Philadelphia’s public schools are seeing a school violence crisis unfold right in front their eyes.

At South Philadelphia High School, Asian American students felt that boycotting classes was their only solution in bringing attention to terror brought on by violent kids and a staff that seems indifferent to that violence.

Recently, the state Department of Education shut down the Office of the State Schools Advocate in Philadelphia because the organization was requesting more money in a budget that consisted of billions of dollars to operate. However, officials told the victims of violence within city schools that they were to not worry about anything because they would be protected. So far, students who have been the victims of violence on school grounds have not seen that protection.

In 2008, State Auditor General, Jack Wagner, found that there had been laws violated by not establishing a safe-schools office to evaluate the over 500 school districts within the state so that violence and safety issues could be addressed. Instead, it was found that false data has been reported for years in regards to violence and safety issues. For example, the Philadelphia school district underreported school violence up until 2005 until the media and the safe-schools advocate found out the truth.

In the newest crisis, it is being denied that there is a problem despite students saying they are being victimized and not receiving the help that they need. However, the district is reporting that there has been a 55% decline in school violence. As a result, students are boycotting the school, mainly because the students need attacks on Asian Americans to be investigated. These alleged attacks have been ongoing for years and nothing has been done for the students who have reported these incidents. The district has also promised to expel students involved in these attacks, but because the number of alternative education slots have been cut, the few that have managed to be expelled will be back in school six months from their expulsion.

There have been some well-intentioned reformers trying to make an effort to make the schools within Pennsylvania safer. However, they are more or less laughed at since their efforts echo the provisions in the Safe Schools Act. It has been found that the Education Department has violated this act for approximately 14 years after a number of investigations revealed these violations.

As it stands, there is no solution to the problem aside from the cessation of violations that have been committed by the school district and the Education Department. However, there is no timeline or no plans, so it is up to teachers, parents, and the students themselves to try and make a difference.