KYW Regional Affairs Council

“Class Action:
Making Schools Safe”


By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  If kids don’t feel safe, they’re not going to learn.  But now, the victims of assaults or even just threats in Philadelphia schools once again have someone going to bat for them.

“Whether or not kids feel safe in school permeates so many other arenas,” says Kelley Hodge, the Philadelphia School District’s “safe schools advocate.”

Hodge, a former prosecutor, started her job last December after the Pennsylvania legislature restored funding for the advocate’s position.  She sees her job as being the voice of the victims.

“At the very core, I think what was missing — and a void that I hope to fill in this office — was what seemed like the inability to effectively communicate with the district and to find the right person to talk to,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

Hodge opened 131 case files last year, from students, parents and teachers who contacted her office (1-877-730-6315, or at school headquarters.

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)


She accompanies students to disciplinary hearings or delinquency court, and monitors how the district reports crime. And she’ll dig deeper into an incident: for example, to try to find out why a child caught with a weapon may have had it in the first place — whether he felt threatened.

Hodge says a key role for her as the school district’s safety watchdog is to make sure victims know the grownups will impose consequences when a violent incident is reported.

“I’ve been able to see how it’s really important that the adults… they have to take the lead on this.  The children are taking (guidance) from them.  And if they feel like an adult will not respond, then they’re not going to tell them. Because, kids are going to think, ‘What’s the point?’ ”


Listen to Part 2…