On April 1, Tracey Gordon, the City of Philadelphia’s Register of Wills, hosted a webinar, Plan. Prepare. Protect. The event was part of a series she hosts on Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. in an effort to protect community wealth for future generations.
This particular discussion outlined violence, safety, and solution initiatives.
Superintendent Dr. William Hite was in attendance and discussed how the Philadelphia School District is curating efforts directed toward providing support programs to students and students’ families who have been impacted by gun violence.
“It is all based on what the school feels would be best for students, by involving the families and determining how much information we can share, who we can share the information with, and determining what support they need,” Hite said.
The Philadelphia School District has implemented Conflict Resolution, a schoolwide initiative that offers a range of preventive programs directed at teaching and reinforcing conflict resolution skills.
The school district has added other programs to Conflict Resolution, such as Positive Behavior Intervention and Restorative Practices, which focus on classroom communities that allow students to talk about how they feel, their emotions and then offer support from there.
Other participants emphasized how social media is negatively impacting youth and a need for a course designed around social media etiquette.
“Obviously we’re in need of a modernized curriculum that incorporates social media, and we need to do it in our schools now to prepare for the next generation that is going to come along,” First Assistant District Attorney Robert Listenbee said.
Gordon asked Listenbee to discuss how Philadelphia is addressing the issue of the school to prison pipeline. Listenbee credited success in decreasing the number of students who fall into that trap to a program started years ago.
“Back in ‘13, ‘14, Dr. Hite and former Deputy Commissioner of Police Kevin Bethel created a program to assist the youth facing troubles in school, with the assistance of DHS and certain prevention programs,” Listenbee said.
Hite added that the large success rate of this program stems from installing programs that help the students at home and in school.
That initiative calls on Mayor Jim Kenney to declare gun violence as a citywide emergency, and to call for an urgent response to Black and brown neighborhoods that experience high rates of gun violence.
Kenney has declined to declare gun violence to be a citywide emergency.
Gauthier believes it’s the youth who are mainly affected by gun violence, and there needs to be initiatives directed towards creating safer neighborhoods for them.
“There was a period about two weeks ago where my district lost four young people in two weeks to gun violence, two 15-year-olds and two 16-year-olds,” Gauthier said. “So, this is an emergency and that’s what I have been pressing, for our City to determine it as an emergency,”
Councilmember Kendra Brooks tied the discussion together by addressing the need to create safer communities outside of school to help curb gun violence.
“We need to invest in our parks and recreation programs, libraries, after-school programs, affordable housing, student job programs, and infrastructure improvements,” brooks said, “so we can recognize how expanding and growing those programs can help successfully impact our youth communities.”
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