General board hearing Thursday likely to focus on school officers and reopening plans [thenotebook.org]

 

The Philadelphia Board of Education is holding an open public hearing Thursday afternoon, one of two that it is required by the City Charter to conduct annually on general topics.

The three-hour meeting, which starts at 4 p.m., has no agenda except hearing from speakers. Student activists plan to renew their calls for police-free schools. Many others have registered to air their concerns about the conditions under which schools will resume in the fall, said Board President Joyce Wilkerson. People can also send comments and concerns to the board in writing.

Altogether, 39 people have registered to speak, said board spokesperson Janice Hatfield.

Regarding the role of police in schools, Wilkerson said that students have already had an impact on the District’s thinking. She cites the hiring of former Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, known for his work nationally to transform how police relate to young people, to supervise a cadre of more than 350 school security officers.

“There’s been a wholesale shift in focus,” said Wilkerson. “We’re revamping the way the District thinks about safety in the schools, and that is in large part a result of young people coming to our board meetings. I give Dr. Hite credit for taking a step back and having a much more profound and thoughtful approach to the issue.”

She added: “We’ve still got a lot of work to do to get everybody trained and on the same page. It is a huge task.”

Both the Philadelphia Student Union and UrbEd, another student advocacy group, have outlined agendas and demands for changing a “culture of policing” in schools to one focused on restorative justice and providing students with more supports in social services and mental health. The District spends more than $31 million on security.

To read the full article by Dale Mezzacappa, click here.

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