This evening, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan responded to the first part of our seven-day "Assault on Learning" investigative series.
"The findings in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer article about violence in the city’s schools simply confirm what our members who work in the schools have been saying. Both violent acts against students and assaults on teachers are underreported and could be avoided.
Schools must be safe and orderly. We need to create an atmosphere where students can learn and teachers can teach.
We need more than cameras in our hallways -- we need personnel who are there to work with the children. We need Non-Teaching Assistants, and we need counselors who can work with our children.
Within the last five years, the School District of Philadelphia has removed between 50 to 75 percent of our NTA’s from the schools. The NTA’s supervise students in the hallways, inside and outside the school buildings, and in the cafeteria. They prevent students from roaming the hallways unsupervised, which can lead to students committing violent acts against other students and staff.
You would never see a pack of kids roaming the halls when there were NTA’s on staff. They would have called for backup before an incident could get started.
The school district has invested millions of dollars in video equipment to monitor hallways but, as the Inquirer reported, a camera can document an incident, but it cannot stop students from attacking one another.
The current climate of violence in some of our schools is no reflection on the quality of teaching in the classrooms nor is it a mirror image of all of our schools. You can’t teach if kids are not at their desks or are sitting at home because they are scared to go to school.
In some schools, kids are roaming the hallways because they can get away with it, because there is not enough adult supervision.
Audenried like many other schools, is part of the neighborhood that surround it. Problems in the neighborhoods spill over into the schools. Our children need adults in to help them resolve those issues.
Currently, Audenried, Gratz, Martin Luther King, Olney East and Olney West High Schools, Clymer, Birney, and Vare Middle School and are slated to become charter schools, further draining the financial resources of the School District. There is no still concrete evidence that charter schools are more successful at educating our children than public schools. Charter schools might appear safer because they are able to reject students that the public schools must accept. But we would do better to invest in the schools that are required to serve all our children."
Tomorrow's stories deal with the epidemic of underreporting violence.