Black and Brown students are arrested and suspended at the highest rate both nationwide and in Pennsylvania.
WE ARE STILL REIMAGINING: An Update on the Reimagining School Safety & Health Campaign.
UrbEd was initially founded on four goals. One of those goals was to end zero-tolerance policies in public schools. Under those policies, students were punished regularly for trivial mistakes and cries for help. We started the Reimagining School Health and Safety Campaign to address this. The mental health and safety of our students are sacrosanct. Unfortunately, this sentiment is not reflected in the treatment of Black students who are 3.2 times more likely than white students to be disciplined—robbed of grace, support, and SEL practices.
In the continued subjugation of Black people, the world witnessed George Floyd’s callous murder last summer. As a result, police brutality was covered in the media nearly every day. Despite that focus on racial justice, Black people continued to experience racism throughout the summer. We saw it during protests, in health care, and in lackluster responses from educational institutions.
This year, UrbEd responded by calling for a reevaluation of school safety and the use of school resource officers. Part of what we fought for was for the burden of student safety to be equally spread. Ensuring student safety should not be the sole responsibility of teachers and counselors. Other aspects of our demands included:
Throughout the year, we participated in dozens of meetings with the Board of Education, the Office of School Safety, the student representatives, Our City Our Schools, and similar district leaders and organizations. During those meetings, we discussed the importance of our demands, worked through the logistics of implementing them, offered alternative roles for student resource officers, and attended a school safety officers’ training.
For the most part, we were effective in persuading district leaders of our demands. But, as is often the case, the power lies in the hands of smaller communities. Larger institutions, like the Board of Education, are averse to quick, substantial change. They wait for the work to be done by smaller collectives before taking action. Because of this, UrbEd will move forward by focusing on each school, principal, teacher, and student. We will work together with school communities to improve models, practices, and climate. And we will do it guided by mental health-informed practices. While we will continue advocating for larger-scale changes, we realize it is most practical to spur change from the bottom-up, as the top-down is laden with bureaucracy.
Brandon Archer, Co-Executive Director
Zoey Tweh, Director of Program Development
Young Philadelphians are no strangers to the negative impact of policing, as their neighborhoods, schools and the entirety of their lives are impacted by interaction with law enforcement. UrbEd has compiled this list of demands to end the cycle of violence and criminalization that our city’s youth encounter, specifically focused on their experiences with police in schools
The Philadelphia school district, 86 percent students of color, is over-policed and criminalizes students on a daily basis in school communities where they should feel safe and welcomed. This reality of problematic school policing, zero-tolerance policies, and criminalization re-enforces the school-to-prison pipeline in our schools-- this needs to end. As a by-student-for-student nonprofit organization, UrbEd has the following demands to create safe, decriminalized school environments.
Reimagine school security.
Redistribute the police (School Resource Officers) budget
Transparency and oversight
Wider staff training