12.09.2009

Are My Kids Safe?

I've always said that my biggest concern about moving my kids from private school to public school was whether they would be safe. That's it. I don't think they need Latin in the 1st grade or the college level Calculus classes in the 5th grade. And while they need an attractive campus, the lack of an oak tree or two (while more would certainly be desirable) doesn't mean that they are learning any less.

But I won't budge on the safety issue.

Last week, on December 3, at South Philadelphia High School, all hell broke loose. There were reports of at least five separate attacks inside the school, resulting in at least seven students being taken to the hospital.

The reported reason? Racially motivated attacks. Only probably not what you're thinking. It was actually African American violence on Asian students.

District spokeman Fernando Gallard says that the district has increased the number of school and city police at the school and around it.

But students and parents don't think that is enough. They claim that there is a history of violence and racial tension at the school. As a result, this week, about fifty Asian students have boycotted school.

The response from the School District has been disappointing. I am extremely concerned about how much time has passed since the attacks and Dr. Ackerman's public comments on the matter. It gives the impression, fair or not, that this incident is not a priority for her - or that perhaps they're hoping that this will just all fade away.

As a parent, that gives me serious pause.

When kids go to school, they should expect to feel safe every single day. No exceptions.

And teachers and administrators should clearly send the message to kids and parents that it's what's supposed to happen every single day. No exceptions.

But that's not the message that we're getting here. We're getting conflicting messages about violence statistics at the school (from "but really, it's better!" to "er, maybe not") - statistics that, at the end of the day, won't explain away bruises on a high school kid. We're hearing racial platitudes but no indication that there's a real commitment to ending the hate (don't get me started on how it's clearly been lost that our community is a mix of races).

I am looking forward to Dr. Ackerman's statement today - I hope that it goes beyond the planned "diversity committee" and reflects an action plan. Without action, committees and speeches are worthless. And our children don't deserve that.

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