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District orders school police to stay out of Level 1 offenses

By thenotebook on Mar 25, 2014 04:56 PM
Photo: Emma Lee/NewsWorks

Statisticians record and categorize incidents at Philadelphia schools, providing the data needed for security planning. 

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Philadelphia School District has directed school police officers to stop responding to calls related to Level 1 student conduct offenses. The proscribed violations range from "failure to follow classroom rules" to "truancy" to "verbal altercations" to "inappropriate touching/public displays of affection."

"These infractions are not criminal offenses; they are classroom/student management issues," wrote District Chief Inspector Carl W. Holmes to school administrators and school police in a memo dated March 10.

The memo states that school police should "respond to all calls that are criminal in nature, or where persons involved are violent or threatening."

In the event that they are called to other incidents, officers should "request the presence of an administrator, counselor, or administrative designee," the memo explains.

("Inappropriate touching" does not include non-consensual sexual acts, which are designated Level 2 offenses).

The School District's chief of student services, Karyn Lynch, characterized the policy shift as "part of a complement of changes" designed to ensure safer schools and build better school culture.

"It's all part of the effort to ensure that students aren't over-arrested," Lynch said, "and really, this is an effort to try and assign to individuals what their duties and responsibilities and their skill set is best related to."

Lynch said this change goes hand-in-hand with other District imperatives, including its implementation of the Response to Instruction and Intervention Initiative.

In line with that program, all teachers hired last year went through a conflict-resolution program that focuses on social and emotional learning. The program was developed by Temple University's College of Education.

The District has also began offering behavioral management and behavioral health training to all staff in order to improve "their ability to engage with students," Lynch said, and to better understand "why students sometimes have the reactions that they have within a school."

Social justice education advocates praised the District's decision to put this policy in writing. Too often, they say, students are arrested or expelled for minor offenses that then negatively affect their chances of graduation.

"Schools should not be using police as school disciplinarians," said Deborah Klehr, senior staff attorney at Pennsylvania's Education Law Center.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (46)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 6:38 pm

And that is how staff ends up knocked-out with broken sculls, necks etc.. Why are they there then? Once again, the district wants to be reactive instead of proactive.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:55 pm

Exactly. It's going to be interesting how this plays out. I had kids play music through speakers in class and not stop until they were removed from class. I guess I'll just waste the period since I'm not going to get thrown against a wall. Good luck to just about any high school teacher.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:02 pm

Level 1 offenses turn into Level 2 offenses in the blink of an eye. I'm pretty sure the kids at Bartram were all in Level 1 territory right before the staffer was knocked unconscious. This new policy is simply foolish.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:15 pm

Social justice education advocates has no clue of what they are talking about. No student is ever expelled for minor violations and if they get arrested is for their disorderly or improper conduct (possession of drugs, assaults on staff etc.)

The presence of school police at times prevents incidents from happening contrary to what is being portrayed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:17 pm

The student is walking around my class, refusing to sit down. He is cursing me out and yelling as I attempt to teach. He starts banging on the walls. He refuses to leave. The principal is "busy". The counselor comes up, tries to reason wih the boy, who still refuses to leave. There are no Ntas. There are no deans or climate managers. The school police officer, who is sitting in his office or patrolling an empty hallway is now not allowed to assist in defusing this situation or at the very least assist in getting the kid out of the classroom so the other 23 students can actually get an education. The SDP never fails to surprise me!

Submitted by Germantown_edu (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:05 pm

That's a classroom management issue.

I was told that for students who left school snuck back in with McDonald's in the RAIN. We're squawking down the hallway thirty minutes late... And was reminded that's a classroom management issue.

Not a chance. It's a school safety issue. When students are taking phone calls in class, that's a bigger issue. SDP policy says phones are confiscated, but that doesn't ever happen.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:16 pm

Students use their phone in front of administrators - and the administrators do nothing. Same with telling students to go to class. Administrators and school police "dance" with students in the halls but the teacher is suppose to ensure instruction is happening...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:45 pm

You are describing poor classroom management. As a remedy, I suggest you have a peer sit for one of your lessons and give you feedback which may help you manage students to display their best behavior. /s

Submitted by Leanonme (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:49 pm

When is the peer suppose to get time to observe a lesson? Do you have any clue what it is like in a Philly classroom these days? If the peer is not busy copying something because the district can't come up with supplies to teach with anymore then that peer is dealing with the behavior problems in their own room. Blaming teachers is a tired, old excuse for the administration to sit on their asses and do nothing Parents are getting tired of their kids being picked on because the administration does not have the guts to expel troublemakers. All the feelgood nonsense needs to go.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:07 pm

Agreed. My "/s" is shorthand for, "Sarcasm."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 9:34 pm

That might be true if it were multiple kids or happening consistently, but It's not necessarily the case. Even really great management does not prevent the kids with metal heath issues or emotional problems from acting out here and there. Many kids in the SDP are struggling with issues that have nothing to do with the teacher. I had one kid who was in and out of inpatient psych treatment & various therapeutic "placements" who acted like that almost every time he was in school & autism spectrum kids prone to outbursts (yes, in regular ed classes). I've had other kids who were normally okay start behaving that way after the death of a family member or an assault on them outside school. Don't assume it's so cut & dried!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:05 pm

Once again, the onus to do anything in a school is put on the teacher. Administrators pass the buck. School police pass the buck. The teacher is just suppose to "deal with it" and be threatened with being written up - and now, apparently under Hite, fired - if she/he doesn't "deal with it." Those in the safety of magnet and any school with admission requirements will survive. Those in neighborhood schools will hope they survive each day.

Submitted by Leanonme (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:17 pm

It is the outright cowardice of the 440 crowd and their political taskmasters' desire to appease parents no matter how out of turn these parents may be that has led to downfall of discipline in Philly schools. Instead of adopting the get tough policies that charters are continually allowed to use the district insists on undermining teachers throughout the district with their spineless solutions, A concerted attempt at making public schools less attractive than the charters. Good for the charters? Then it's good for the public schools. Get tough and restore discipline. Wimping out never works.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 7:10 pm

I wish I could say this made any difference to me or my work day, but it doesn't. The "police officers" at my high school are very old, or very fat, or both, and I rarely see them except in the morning at the metal detector. If there is any real trouble, they are scarce. There are one or two females who actually do work but the men are a waste of space. My own students would protect me better than they. I am no spring chicken buy I could duke out most of them on an off day so I am sure the kids think the same thing. Who really cares? This will just be an excuse to reduce their numbers, anyway, and many are already collecting full pensions from the city police department. The biggest laugh, though, is the idea that this move is going to make anyone safer, except them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:17 pm

Wow. This is beyond stupid. the ELC is a charter operators best friend.

You have to be deep into your own bs to think this will not make schools more chaotic and violent.

I love the quote that teachers should suck it up until there is more funding. These people always demand their flawed ideology be the highest priority, ahead of students, ahead of parents, ahead of the health of district schools, ahead of employee safety. Pretending that there dumb ideas have no consequence. Common sense be damned.

Submitted by Back in the Saddle Again (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:15 pm

Last April, after several years of teaching English and Special Education with the School District of Philadelphia, I handed in my keys and I walked out. I did not consult with anyone, I did not give the required notice, and I did not say farewell to my colleagues. What I DID do was save my own life. "Verbal altercations" over emotionally undisciplined pupils' "failure to follow classroom rules" were increasingly degenerating into flashpoints for physical assaults on other pupils and on myself. I had been punched, slapped, kicked, bitten and (far too frequently) threatened. There was no "regular staff" (Deans, Counselors, Nurses, NTA's) left in my school anymore to help keep these violent, angry, emotionally unbalanced adolescents in check - and there was NEVER any time to summon/ wait for help from security after the fact. Well, after I left, I was diagnosed with PTSD (the SEVENTH Philadelphia teacher I know personally who has been so diagnosed by professional healthcare providers!) and warned that it would take at least six months for my own emotional state to return to anything like normalcy. This, in fact, turned out to be exactly the case. This new ruling by District administrators is hardly coincidental; it is a deliberate attempt to punish teachers for their current refusal to buckle under to SRC "give back" demands - and the SRC clearly wants it recognized as such. It's not simply that Carl Holmes and Karen Lynch are irredeemable morons; they are shrewd and gleeful instruments of vengeance against school instructors whom they perceive as vulnerable and easily cowed by their bully tactics and the violence that they are about to deliberately unleash upon teachers' heads. "Social justice advocates" who are far removed from the harsh realities of the urban classroom and lawyers at the Pennsylvania Education Law Center who fatten their own paychecks by making teachers' daily working conditions utterly impossible to countenance will surely burn in Satan's deepest hell for their treachery. I daily deal with my own anger at myself for having ever worked for the SDP (today I teach at a private school and I absolutely love it; it has saved both my sanity and my love of teaching) and my heart and my prayers go out to you wonderful SDP teachers who carry on despite the litany of sins committed against you every day. You are the best!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:46 pm

Let's all keep in mind that school police department is about the only area that did not suffer from layoffs, last June!

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:01 pm

Under this policy I say just fire them. They were basically worthless now and this memo confirms it.

A waste of money that could be spent on copy paper or maybe enough desks that are not broken.

If this is the new policy I can say as a PFT member; close the Public schools and replace us with Charters. No Charter operator would have such a crazy policy and it is not fair to the kids how we teach them they can do whatever they want. Since when they get out in the real world they get slammed.

This is NUTS.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 8:06 pm

Staffer knocked unconscious at Bartram High. Inquirer

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 9:12 pm

District Chief Inspector Carl W. Holmes , another incompetent at 440! If they (SPOs) are only responding to criminal offenses, we don't need them, simply call 911.
This is just sad. What teachers and staff have to endure w/o supports is just wrong.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 9:22 pm

District Chief Inspector Carl W. Holmes , another incompetent at 440! If they (SPOs) are only responding to criminal offenses, we don't need them, simply call 911.
This is just sad. What teachers and staff have to endure w/o supports is just wrong.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2014 10:46 pm

Klehr from ELC appears to have graduated from college, taught 1 year at a charter, got a law degree, and therefore is supremely qualified to tell teachers how to deal. Her argument is absolutely ridiculous:

1. "That can include school-wide support of positive behavior and a greater reliance on guidance counselors." So you need to use more guidance counselors.

However:

2. "I'm sensitive to the teachers frustration feeling that there's this lack of resources – they don't have enough guidance counselors."

So you need more guidance counselors but don't have them. Therefore, come on teachers, get more guidance counselors. Isn't that in your purview? Everyone knows that the teachers are responsible for hiring the guidance counselors.

Seriously, what does ELC do? I am absolutely astounded at the lack of understanding she has.

Here's a stunner: the resources will not magically come back. Her argument is wonderful: we don't have resources, that is the problem, so we need resources. Wow.

How about this-- in the absence of resources, how about a solution that is not "get more resources"? Do something useful instead of sitting back at your law center and spouting nonsense.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 1:10 am

When will the PFT see the real problem. The district has to be blown apart. That can happen without crushing or destroying the PFT. Once the district gets involved, it poisons everything because it exists simply to perpetuate its own bureaucracy. Kids fail but the district keeps moving. Teachers suffer but the district keeps moving. Communities crumble but the district keeps moving. Even charters that have become tied up with the district are looking and acting just like 440. We need to figure out how to light the fuse, blow up the whole structure and start with a new organizational model that puts people before the bureaucracy. Students, teachers, families, communities and then the money makers. Right now, it's reversed.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:45 am

What you speak about is a consequence of the absence of democracy in everything that we do and decisions being made by people who sit in ivory towers and have never worked, or no longer work in schools.

What bureaucratic school districts, our urban school districts, always become is a 'feudalistic system" more akin to the middle ages than 21st century organizations.

Charter schools were originally conceived to break through the feudalism of our schools, however, as we see, independent charter schools are not being created, nourished or overseen properly. Instead, we create new bureaucracies and favor only the "charter operators" like KIPP and Mastery. Although, to be honest, neither Mastery nor KIPP would allow that to happen.

An issue which was a major issue when I was an administrator was whether the SPO's were under the direction of the principals or the direction of the head of school police. The principals, back then, won that battle.

In any school I worked at we always had mostly really good school police officers who always helped teachers and always did their jobs. If not, we got rid of them.

The vast majority of SPO's I have known are wonderful people who do whatever they can to help students, teachers and principals. I am still grateful for what they did for me as an AP at both Furness and Mastbaum, and as a teacher, back at Uni.

Like teachers, please do not judge them all by the actions of a few. I am still friendly with many SPO's who have my utmost respect. They are really good people just like teachers. I call them friends.

What I read in this article is very disturbing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 10:57 am

This article makes me feel sympathy for the PFT. It sucks to work for idiots.

I am curious in this case if the district really wanted this policy. The fact that the ELC was involved may mean they were settling some lawsuit. This is the exact tactic that gave us busing and helped drive the middle class out in the 70's.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 2:55 am

This policy lets students who have some sense vulnerable to the bullies. A teacher is to risk his/her life while school police sit in an office and "chill." The only position NOT cut this year were school police. More were sent to high schools. Why? To sit?

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on March 26, 2014 5:49 am

Many comments reference high school. What about the middle schools and chaos that occurs in them? What about the K-8 schools that have middle school grades but do not even have the resources that high school and middle schools have? Some light should be shed on the discipline issues in the lower to middle grades. Those students that cause problems in high school have been doing so for years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:50 am

I'm confused. So if I walk into a store and start knocking over items on the shelves, cussing employees out and acting the fool, the police won't show up because it is a "store management issue"?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 9:22 am

To summarize the main reason SDP has so many problems in their schools is because the diminishing of any real consequences and discipline in schools . That has fester to an extreme in the last 15 plus years.

If you want students to learn you need to get back to discipline and control of the students or not much is accomplished.The District administrators at the school and 440 give hardly any support on this issue.All words -no action.

Look at other nations and why their education system is excelling and you see a common thread. Students cooperate more because teachers are respected and discipline is enforced collaboratively with administrators . Ultimately , kids learn and don't have all the distractions and interference in the classroom.
Many administrators are just pass the buck on discipline onto teachers because they have no real solutions.
One other thing, get strict discipline back into schools and the stupid, frivolous lawsuits need to end.
You hear that judges? If whiny Wilma has a complaint that the teacher or adm. was too strict on them and hurt their "feelings" and going sue the school, tell them to get back to school behave and respect the adults there.Not give into them and award a few hundred thousand for their "emotional scars" or some other crazy thing they trump up.

Back in the day when students were better behaved and respected teachers, staff and the lame lawsuits were unheard of.Now lawsuits filed by their parents or students put a brake on dealing with kids that are out of control because of the potential litigation.

One last thing, too many parents and kids try to get IEP's for their children ( for some learning disability) so ultimately if they are disruptive the consequences are different,usually lesser because the behavior is listed in the IEP. In fact, too many children are labeled that today for the wrong reasons.
Quite a few behavioral issues are students with IEP's.

Submitted by ParentCitizen (not verified) on March 27, 2014 10:56 am

I must take issue with this. I, personally, have gone through all the steps and jumped through all the hoops to get my middle school son an IEP for learning and concentration issues. He has not been disruptive in school for even one day in his life. We were denied the IEP for that reason alone! Because he is quiet and well behaved in school, he cannot have the assistance an IEP offers because he isn't turning over desks and cursing people out. It makes me sick.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:13 am

If I was a classroom teacher, I would ignore school police (since they are not allowed to do much of anything from now on anyway) and go straight to the Philadelphia Police. Instead of dialing 6, dial 911.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 9:02 pm

Word.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:22 am

This is foolish! They are talking about people staying in their own work lane but there are no employees whose job it is to remove unruly students or police the halls. They are taking about call a COUNSELOR??? Counselors do not handle discipline! The last time I assisted in trying to remove TRUANT students from the halls, they decided to run me over and nearly dislocated my shoulder so there is NO WAY I will be dealing with that scenario again! Are the SPOs only supposed to run to fights in the HALLWAY or operate the front door? We have enough problems in our school and we have a full compliment of officers that do next to nothing so what now?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 9:02 am

Mutual fighting is considered a level 1 offense, rule 6.
So, let them fight, and once a melee starts, then call 911.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 11:01 am

cannot even call 911. as a Building Rep, I have had to represent teachers who were disciplined for doing just that!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 1:15 pm

The law is for anyone , anywhere , even the dictatorship SDP.If you are being assualted , potential injury,etc. you do as you normally do ,call 911.I don't give a rats a$$ what the amdiminstration says.
they are sitting in the protedted area with all kinds of police at 440.
Green,Hite go to Bartram HS and settle that violenent behavior there. You would be screaming running out the door.You guys have no idea.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 1:08 pm

*
*The law is for anyone , anywhere , even the dictatorship SDP.If you are being assaulted , potential injury,etc. you do as you normally do ,call 911.I don't give a rats a$$ what the adiminstration says.
They are sitting in the protected area with all kinds of police at 440.
Green,Hite go to Bartram HS and settle that violenent behavior there. You would be screaming running out the door.You guys have no idea.

Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on March 26, 2014 1:24 pm

So Bartram is in lockdown and 6 students in custody and 1 SPO is injured.

Maybe the rest of the SPO's were following THIS policy!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 2:04 pm

Billy Boy GREEN , Bug Eyed HITE get over to Bartram HS and quell that disturbance.
Show us how to resolve these issues.
Come on both Billy's (Green,Hite) come to Bartram and walk softly and carry your big stick.
Nope , too much a wimp to go there alone without police, like teachers do daily and stop the violence on teachers, staff.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 2:36 pm

Hite couldn't even walk the route that elementary students were expected to walk without police protection last September.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 3:33 pm

Nobody can fix the SDP version of the neighborhood school. It is an idea whose time has passed. Close them all and replace them with new schools like the ones just approved or charters. It's time to throw in the towel one neighborhood schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:29 pm

I was a teacher at Jay Cooke Elementary School for a very long time. I am saddened to hear that one of my former students was viciously attached by another students parents. So glad that 'social justice advocates' keep advocating for students who are disrespecting teachers/fellow classmates, touching other students and overall misbehaving. Trust me when I tell you, they are the same kids whose parents then come up and beat up students in their classrooms and NO ONE will tell me differently. Who is advocsting the my former student that got beat up at Cooke? It is a classroom management issue when teachers are getting cursed at? When you are instructing and the same students repeatedly act out and disrupt learning? Sadly, they will find a way to vilify the teacher and somehow it will wind up being her fault. So sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:40 pm

I was a teacher at Jay Cooke Elementary School for a very long time. I am saddened to hear that one of my former students was viciously attached by another students parents. So glad that 'social justice advocates' keep advocating for students who are disrespecting teachers/fellow classmates, touching other students and overall misbehaving. Trust me when I tell you, they are the same kids whose parents then come up and beat up students in their classrooms and NO ONE will tell me differently. Who is advocsting the my former student that got beat up at Cooke? It is a classroom management issue when teachers are getting cursed at? When you are instructing and the same students repeatedly act out and disrupt learning? Sadly, they will find a way to vilify the teacher and somehow it will wind up being her fault. So sad.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 27, 2014 7:20 pm

Elc cares only about the purity of their social justice ideology.

They will not let reality intrude. Every bully, if they are of the right race and low socieconkmic status, is in fact a victim of our unjust racist society.

They are so obnoxiously stupid it is painful.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 27, 2014 8:15 am

So students roaming the halls is no longer an issue for School Police according to this? Whose responsibility is that then if they are not in class and roaming the halls looking for trouble. Interesting.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 28, 2014 10:54 pm

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Dr. Hite needs to be made to resign like Ackerman and The SRC needs to get together with the PFT and OSS and come up with a different proposal because being a former admin employee this is a joke. This District is shot to shit and needs a major overhaul to keep teachers and support staff safe. Why don't you use the money that you claim you never have and retract that ridiculous memo and hire more competent SPOs and fire the incompetent ones!

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