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.
- Transition away from school resource officers to community-based safety specialists. We call for the release of SROs and the implementation of a new hiring process, searching for diverse individuals with strong local community connections and experience working with youth. Comprehensive, expansive training prioritizing students’ safety and health over discipline. Goals and actions of school safety staff should focus on creating a trusting and supportive school environment for students. End zero-tolerance policies and harsh disciplinary practices that form the school-to-prison pipeline and replace them with restorative justice practices. Specifically remove Policy 805, which requires all Philadelphia School District high schools to have metal detectors.
Redistribute the police (School Resource Officers) budget
- Increased support for student’s mental and emotional health.
- Invest in creative outlets such as arts and after-school programmingAllocate more funds towards nurses and medical supplies in schoolsEnsure all buildings are safe and healthy environments.
Transparency and oversight
- There must be an independent body to oversee student safety and the actions of the community-based safety specialist in the district. Yearly report including data on safety incidents, student suspension and arrest rates, the number of interactions with the Philadelphia Police Department on school grounds, and progress on reimagining school safety.
Wider staff training
- It is not enough to only change school security. To truly make students feel safe and welcome in their schools, we have to train and work with all district employees.
- Require all teachers, staff, and administrators to receive anti-bias, anti-racist, and cultural competency training to ensure all students are protected. All teachers should receive training in how to facilitate productive and inclusive conversations about race and diversity.