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School Reform Commissioner Simms defends her action at film screening




Thursday night will be the first Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting since it terminated the teachers' contract in a surprise meeting last week.

The meeting was already expected to attract a firestorm of protest, but conflict may have been further fanned by School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms scolding students at a film screening Wednesday night.

Simms organized a movie night for parents to screen the film Won't Back Down, which offers a critical portrait of teachers' unions as the protagonist fights to turn her child's school into a charter.

Students in the advocacy organization Philly Student Union objected to the film and, about 20 minutes into the screening, started chanting.

In a video that's circulated on the Internet, a visibly upset Simms seems to scold students for interrupting her event.

Exact phrasing is hard to decipher over the sound of the students, but Philly Student Union executive director Hiram Rivera said he heard Simms say: "You kids must be going to a failing school" and "You belong in jail."

Simms offered an olive branch with two tweets Thursday. 

Students of @215studentunion I want to hear what you have to say also - and I'd like for you to hear me too. Let's meet! #PhlEd

— Sylvia P. Simms (@Spsimms1) October 16, 2014

I believe in the power of parent action. Peace to the kids who expressed their opinions! #PhlEd

— Sylvia P. Simms (@Spsimms1) October 16, 2014

In a telephone interview Thursday afternoon, Simms said she wanted to "clear up the confusion" on the matter.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Kevin McCorry

Kevin is WHYY/NewsWorks' senior education writer.