S. Philly High 6 Months Later

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

This is from Helen Gym (down at The Philadelphia Public School Notebook) who's a former Notebook editor and a founder of Parents United for Public Education, a board member at Asian Americans United, and who was also named Philadelphia Inquirer's "Citizen of the Year" in December 2007 because of her work in education, immigration and community activism.

Here’s what hasn’t happened:

Any effort to acknowledge that the District must address and handle bias and harassment at the school.

Instead, Supt. Arlene Ackerman has continued to heighten racial tension and confusion by defending a disgraced LaGreta Brown (whom she described as a victim) and casting blame on Asian youth, claiming in this article last month that she knew of an incident (without any details mind you) where Asian students attacked African American students two years ago.

New policies and protocols to develop appropriate responses to bias and harassment.

What we’ve found is that the District lacks options. They only know two things – suspend or ignore. And we’ve seen that in full force at Southern, where students have been suspended without any investigation or, in other cases, told to hug when they’ve had food thrown at them or racial slurs cast in their face. When new students arrive, there is no orientation process for them or their families; students and the school community have not had any new policies shared with them post-Dec. 3.

Significant dialogue and training to address race and race relations.

A set of recommendations by the U.S. Dept. of Justice has been largely ignored since being published in February. To date, there has been two half-day professional development sessions for staff that focused specifically on diversity and multiracial issues. A small subset of students participated in two half-day dialogue sessions last December. An afterschool club is run by the graciousness of civic leaders like Sonny Hill and City Councilman James Kenney, but it’s unclear how it’s being sustained and infused throughout the school and school day. Dialogue and healing must occur between and among students, staff and the broader school community.

Compliance with language access mandates.

Flagrant violations abound for students and families who don’t speak English. Interpretation is inconsistent and frequently inaccurate. Parents who don’t speak English have been turned away by the school.

Follow through and dialogue with students and families.

This is where humanity steps in. When students have informed the school and District of harassment and assault, they never hear back from the school how the incident is resolved, whether there’s been an investigation, and what next steps the school is planning to take to address their concerns.
Glad to know there are people like Helen out there helping to make sure what needs to happen actually does.