The role of police officers in schools

November 3, 2015 – WHYY Radio Times

Guests: Kevin Bethel, Harold Jordan and Deborah Gordon Klehr

The nation was shocked by a recent video of a South Carolina sheriff’s deputy throwing a black high school girl to the floor and arresting her after she refused to leave the classroom. Since the late 1990’s, police officers have had a greater and routine presence in American schools. The result is a dramatic increase in student arrests and the rise of the disturbing trend called the school-to-prison pipeline. The effect has been profound among blacks and Latinos. This morning on Radio Times we explore the role of police officers in schools. Does their presence serve to remedy difficult situations or cause the escalation of conflict? We’ll talk with Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner KEVIN BETHEL, who works with the School District of Philadelphia and the juvenile justice system to keep students in school and out of court. He’ll be joined by education activist HAROLD JORDAN of the Pennsylvania ACLU, author of a recent report Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools. We’ll also hear from DEBORAH GORDON KLEHR of the Education Law Center about the need for mandating training of school police officers.

Philadelphia’s shift in discipline policy

Dec. 9, 2014 – By Dan Hardy, Philadelphia Public School Notebook – In the wake of the catastrophic Columbine school shooting in 1999, many school district leaders, politicians, and police summed up their response to school violence with two words: zero tolerance.

Infractions that once might have prompted a discussion of motive and intention instead often led to immediate, automatic suspensions, expulsions, and calls to police.

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Op-Ed: More school nurses are needed to protect our children

May 28, 2014 – by Maura McInerney, Public School Notebook – Our hearts go out to the family, friends, fellow students,and teachers of Sebastian Gerena, the 7-year-old boy who died at Andrew Jackson Elementary last week. In the absence of a school nurse on duty (a nurse is present only on Thursdays and every other Friday), school staff called 911. We know they did everything they could with the resources they had to respond.

Read the complete op-ed.

DN Editorial: Sick of it all

May 23, 2014 – Philadelphia Daily News Editorial – The death of any child is a tragedy. The death of two children who fell ill while at school is unspeakable. And while the cause of death for a first-grader at Andrew Jackson School has not been determined, both cases demand that we take a hard look at the impact the district’s budget realities may be having on children.

Read the full editorial.


A criminalized school climate is the wrong path

November 20, 2013 – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – In the Nov. 15 article on the decrease in court referrals from Brashear High School (“Concerns Raised Over Brashear Discipline”), Magistrate District Judge James A. Motznik presents the wrong solution for the wrong problem. Instead of advocating for increased court referrals, local judges should be pushing for smart school climate reforms that dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline while making schools safer.

Read the complete letter: