PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Amid national protests demanding police reforms, some student groups and education advocates across the city have joined forces to demand the Philadelphia School Board declare the city’s public schools as police-free zones. District and charter officials addressed those concerns ahead of Thursday night’s school board meeting.
The Philadelphia School District manages its own security force, and come this school year, students will notice security will have new uniforms.
“We’re working on changing our uniform,” Kevin Bethel, the school district’s safety chief, said, “so we’re going to go to a more softer uniform that we think is less threatening toward, particularly, our younger students.”
But some want more dramatic changes.
The Philadelphia Student Union is calling for police-free schools.
District Superintendent Dr. William Hite says he’s meeting with the student union next week.
“Kevin has met with the student union,” Hite said. “And then we also have a meeting scheduled next week, the both of us with them.”
Charter schools, like Mastery, take a different approach to school safety.
“We have security at the end of the day is outside the building to make sure kids get home safely,” Mastery Schools CEO Scott Gordon said.
At Mastery facilities, security stays outside. On top of that, its 21 schools all have social workers, therapists and more, says its deputy chief of student development.
“Our job is to educate the whole child, so that includes attending to the social and emotional needs of children,” Saliyah Cruz said.
Meanwhile, also in Philadelphia, the school year may start up to a week late because teachers are also set to get additional training.