Ok, I’m kind of an outsider, born and raised in Michigan but going to school in Philly. I don’t know a lot yet, but I just began working on a policy project to address the problem of violence at South Philly High School. There is a huge problem in this area with school violence, a lot of interracial conflicts and in particular violence against immigrants. There have been countless articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer over the last month addressing this issue.
My project involves doing a national literature review of proposed interventions which will be used for a massive violence report published by OMG.
So, this isn’t a joke. According to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, violence in Philadelphia schools has reached ‘‘epidemic proportions.’’ The problem has gotten bad enough that a year-long series of hearings is being held in Philadelphia to begin the process of problem identification.
I’ve begun the process of networking with local leaders in Philadelphia regarding their assessment of the problem. One frequently mentioned concern is that the school system functions out of fear–not just the students, but teachers and administrators are unable to do what they feel is right for fear of retribution by their higher-ups. The process for dealing with violent incidents is badly structured and perpetuates future violence. The system itself is broken and letting down these kids, for a number of reasons that I have yet to investigate in detail.
Of course, I’m not going to generalize about all Philadelphia high schools, because they are not all alike. I’ve never set foot in any of these schools, only talked to those who have. This is not my culture, my hometown or my area of expertise. I just want to do something useful while I’m here.
My professor (who is an amazing, inspiring human being) has created a charter school in Philadelphia with low violence rates and positive outcomes. There are people, teachers and community leaders and students alike, stepping up to the plate to really fight this problem. So there are certainly places you can work and feel like you are making a difference.
If you want a taste of what kind of issues some schools are dealing with, I recommend you follow the series of hearings being held on school violence in Philadelphia on behalf of the Human Relations Commission.
These hearings will be videotaped and eventually we (as in, me and my student cohort) will have a website up detailing the findings. Once our website is up (another month or so) you’ll be able to learn more than you ever wanted to know about school violence in Philadelphia.