KYW Regional Affairs Council

“Class Action:
Making Schools Safe”


By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Until this year, the Samuel Fels High School in Northeast Philadelphia was listed as a “persistently dangerous” school, as defined by the state.

But the climate is changing here.

On a recent typical morning, students ran their backpacks thorugh the airport-style metal detectors, and swiped their ID cards, electronically registering their arrival at school.

Audio alerts let administrators know which students were on detention or suspended.

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)


An administrator yells, “Hey guys, school starts at 7:45, remember?,” and a short time later the entrance shuts down, promptly at 7:45am.  Every student coming in after that is marked late and handed a detention slip.

(Fels High School principal Shawn McGuigan. Credit: Mike DeNardo)

“To me, my concepts and my ideas are not rocket science. It’s the way, I think, you need to run a building,” says principal Shawn McGuigan (right).

Under this second-year principal there are fewer fights, and strictly-enforced consequences for misbehavior.

“When we do have a fight, we have them arrested for disorderly conduct,” he tells KYW Newsradio, “because you can’t walk on the street and get into a fight as an adult and think it’s okay.  You’ll be arrested.”

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)


One hundred twenty-eight surveillance cameras — at the entrances, in the hallways, and around the grounds — provide evidence for prosecutions. But School District police sergeant Sam Higginson (below right) says developing relationships with students helps.

(School District police sgt. Sam Higginson. Credit: Mike DeNardo)

“We rely on the cameras for a lot of things. But knowing the kids… like, if I see a child on the camera and I know him, nine times out of ten I’ll know why he’s acting the way he’s acting.”

On this day, senior Joe Hinton walked in late and McGuigan gave him a detention.

“I find it kind of annoying,” Hinton says.  “But you know, as a student, I would.  So I guess he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing,” Hinton acknowledges.

What McGuigan has done has helped Fels to be removed from the “dangerous” list. And despite the detention, Hinton says he still likes his principal.


Listen to Part 1…