The School District of Philadelphia has recalled hundreds of employees, but has yet to signal student safety as a top priority this fall. None of the 1,202 student safety staff who were laid off in June have been recalled to date.
Today, a coalition of parents, students, clergy, and SDP workers announced that on August 14 they would bring the Fast for Safe Schools to SDP’s steps for at least one day if City leaders and the District do not take action.
The Fast for Safe Schools originally encamped for 15 days in front of Governor Corbett’s office, shedding light on the dire situation that could befall Philadelphia’s schoolchildren this fall if student safety staff are not present in the schools. At the time, SDP Superintendent Hite visited the fast and signed a petition in support.
Along with other education advocates, the Fast for Safe Schools pushed for the Governor’s release of new state funds for Philadelphia schools, but now City leadership must act to support the District too.
"We were optimistic at first," said Marcia Teagle, who fasted in front of Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office. "But now as the school year nears, we are more worried than ever about student safety this fall."
With the first day of school just over one month away, Earlene Bly believes that her daughter and grandson will go back to schools that are less safe than they were last year unless the district acts to restore safety staff.
"We trust the district to make sure our children are safe at school. That trust will be broken if no one is there to keep our kids out of danger," said Bly, who also fasted in June.
Parents, teachers, students, politicians and community leaders have all identified the 1,202 laid-off student safety staff as playing a key role in preventing violence and defusing tensions in the lunchrooms, hallways and schoolyards of SDP schools.
In the past three weeks, scores of parents have called SDP to express their concern for the safety of their kids this fall. There has been no formal response. Meanwhile, contract negotiations between UNITE HERE Local 634, the union of lunchroom and student safety staff, and SDP continue without settlement.
During the last school year, there were 2,672 violent incidents in the School District of Philadelphia, according to the SDP.