Philadelphia school violence: where’s the superintendent?

The Philadelphia Inquirer has again been demonstrating how irreplaceable it is by publishing a disturbing series of articles on violence against students and teachers in the Philadelphia public schools. Today’s installment reports that in the 2009-2010 school year 690 teachers in the Philadelphia public schools were assaulted. In the five years from 2005 to 2010, more than 4,000 assaults on public school teachers in Philadelphia were reported. And that doesn’t even count incidents of threats and disruption.

It seems to me that the Number 1, most important task for the leader of the Philadelphia School District is providing a safe environment in public schools in which students can learn and teachers can teach. Why can’t Superintendent Arlene Ackerman bring herself to say that?

She has a tough job, and not one that I would want. But I’d like to see Superintendent Ackerman invite parents, teachers, students and taxpayers to judge her exclusively on her ability to deliver safe schools. Insuring a safe environment for students and teachers is a lot more important than insuring that minority contractors get allocated a share of School District spending, something we know the superintendent has prioritized.

The Inquirer is promising an article on Friday proposing solutions, but no simple remedy, for violence in the Philadelphia public schools. I hope those solutions include the prompt removal of violent and disruptive students from regular public schools and their transfer to special schools where they can receive the counseling and attention they need.  My second choice would be just their prompt removal from the public schools.

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