Officials: Philly School Safety Must Be Top Priority as Gun Violence Surges
Several Philadelphia officials held a joint press conference with students and educators to advocate for school safety.
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia officials stood with students and educators Monday in a joint public appearance advocating for school safety to be a top priority for the city.
District Attorney Larry Krasner, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, Mayor Jim Kenney and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. gathered as a united front at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary to voice their commitment to keeping students safe as the city struggles with a gun violence epidemic and a recent spate of shootings near schools, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“For our administration at this moment in time, there’s no greater priority than preventing the scourge of guns,” said Kenney.
There have been 458 homicides in Philadelphia through Oct. 29 compared to 414 during the same period last year. An estimated 180 of the shooting victims have been under the age of 18, according to Fox 29.
During the first two months of the school year, there were at least four shootings near school buildings and at least 35 students were injured or killed. Last month, a 13-year-old was killed on his way to school at E.W. Rhodes Elementary. A 16-year-old was also seriously injured and a 66-year-old male passerby was killed in a shooting outside Lincoln High School.
“Even though I feel safe in my school, I don’t feel safe around my school,” student Herman Andino said during the news conference. “I don’t feel safe coming out of school. I get anxiety because just around the corner, eight murders have been happening to students my age and it’s not right.”
Bethune Principal Aliya Catanch-Bradley also spoke, saying her students are often on edge while in school.
“Often they come to school very concerned about how they have to travel in some very unsafe conditions to get here,” she said. “I wish I could promise all my students safe travels, but I can’t, so we do the best we can.”
Veronica Joyner, founder and chief administrative officer of the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, said her school has had to hire a grief counselor and holds frequent lockdown drills.
“Call it for what it is — it’s a state of emergency in Philadelphia,” she said. “We need to teach our children to use their hands for skills and not to pick up a gun.”
Philadelphia police announced an increased presence in 25 “safe zones” which will benefit 38 schools that were selected based on the department’s latest crime data.
“Officers assigned to these zones will be on the lookout for suspicious activity and mainly to create safe spaces for students as they head to and from school,” described Outlaw.
Outlaw also said the police have been working with the school district, local businesses and community volunteers to establish the “Safe Path” program, a pilot program that will pay and train trusted community members to help create a safe path to school.
The program will start at four high schools by the end of the 2021-22 term.