Commission hearings on school violence

Posted by on January 18, 2010

Commission hearings on school violence set

As part of a comprehensive plan to examine and address intergroup violence in Philadelphia public schools, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has announced a series of public hearings across the Philadelphia School District beginning on January 28th.

The public hearings, designed to be listening sessions for PCHR, will focus on violence motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation. A hearing will be held in conjunction with each of the eleven Regional Offices of the Philadelphia school system.

The hearings will provide students, parents, faculty, police, community members, and youth-service organizations with the opportunity to speak about their experiences with school violence, to highlight areas of needed reform, and to identify best practices for ending and responding to intergroup violence. At the conclusion of the hearings, the agency will issue a report detailing findings and policy recommendations for the School District.

“We invite all members of the community – students, parents, School District faculty and staff, and City residents – to come out and share their stories as well as their ideas for change,” said Kay Kyungsun Yu, Chair of the Commission.

“We believe these hearings will allow us to fully understand the scope of violence and to develop a strategic plan for redressing any potential systemic failures.”

The Commission has been working on the issues of violence, ethnic intimidation and racial tension in the Philadelphia School District for years. Since May 2009, it has worked actively with students and community organizations to resolve ongoing conflicts at South Philadelphia High School that escalated on December 3rd.  On December 15th, the agency organized a meeting between students, parents and Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to begin a dialogue regarding violence and racial and ethnic tension at South Philadelphia High School.

The Commission also was instrumental in bringing the Department of Justice’s SPIRIT program – Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together – to the high school. The program is designed to bring the student populations together to work toward ending violence and racism in schools.

“We see these public hearings as part of our mission to diffuse conflict and intergroup tensions in the City,” explained Rue Landau, Executive Director of the Commission. “Since Former Chief Judge James Giles is undertaking a comprehensive, independent investigation of the violence that occurred at South Philadelphia High School in early December, the Philadelphia Commission is focusing its efforts on building relationships and promoting necessary dialogue to address systemic, district-wide issues related to intergroup violence in the schools.”

The first public hearing will be held on Thursday, January 28th, 4pm-7pm at the Guerin Recreation Center, 2201 S. 16th Street (16th and Jackson Streets).  Language interpretation services will be available.

For more information or to sign up to testify at one of the upcoming hearings, call 215-686-4670 or click here.

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