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Liberty City Press APR. 13 – APR. 20, 2014

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Food Fight Bartram cafeteria brawl shows a school out of control

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ust weeks before the mayoral election in 2007, the five Democratic hopefuls gathered in the studio of WPVI (now 6abc) to discuss the future of our city. Education, as always, was a major topic of debate. When it came to Chaka Fattah, the issue became inexorably intertwined with safety in the classroom. Fattah told of his days at West Philly High and of Officer Reese patrolling the hallways, and called for a police officer assigned to every school. In the wake of the chaos that has become the educational experience at Bartram High, we may have to revisit the Officer Reese approach.

…we will inevitably see the usual handwringing, approbation and concern… The chaos seems to have started a few weeks ago when a conflict resolution specialist called a “climate manager” was knocked unconscious (hold for a moment: do we really have a job title in the Philadelphia School District called climate manager that has nothing

to do with earth sciences?) in an altercation with a 17-year-old student. Seems the climate manager’s head was pushed into a concrete wall. This led Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ President Jerry Jordan to liken the incident to the 2007 assault of Frank Burd — a teacher at Germantown High School who broke his neck after falling from a haymaker leveled by a student in 2007. A week later, cbsphilly.com reported: “A lunchtime brawl six students in police custody. One school police officer suffered minor injuries and a student was scratched in the face when the huge fight erupted. ‘Bartram went into a lockdown due to a fight that broke out at the lunchroom today,’ says school district spokesman Fernando Gallard. ‘As a result, we had six students that were taken into custody.’” Philly.com described the lunchroom scene as “teenagers punching and stomping on one another and on school police [with] students set[ting] off firecrackers inside the building.” (When firecrackers are going off in the lunchroom and it is not a high school in Chinatown celebrating the New Year with a dancing dragon, it’s time for some serious climate management.) If you haven’t had a chance to see the video — and these days there is always a video — you should. It is like a scene out of “Lord of the Flies.” But more disturbing than the video itself

is the commentary this violent scene sparked among the teachers at Bartram. One teacher, speaking under conditions of anonymity, said, “It’s normal for Bartram…It’s our new normal.” Philly.com quotes another teacher “who also fears retribution: ‘I guess people didn’t think it was a big deal, because there was no blood, there were no serious injuries.’” When teachers fear retribution from their students for speaking out against violence in the classroom, you know the problem goes well beyond a lunchtime brawl. So the usual game plan is now in place: more police will be assigned to the school, assessment teams assigned to review building conditions and staff assignments, and a community meeting planned where we will inevitably see the usual handwringing, approbation and concern from all concerned parties. But let’s focus on one small step before all others — remove the bad kids from the school immediately and permanently. A child that has so little control of himself that he tries to push a counselor’s head through a concrete wall cannot be allowed in a classroom. A kid who thinks it’s OK to set off a firecracker inside a school building belongs in a juvenile detention center, not Bartram High. If you think this is too extreme, perhaps too harsh, read on. Philly.com reports, “Staffers were shocked when they saw that the 17-year-old who assaulted [the climate manager] was back in the school this week, ‘He was cutting class, roaming Continued on page 2

APR.13-20, 2014

Liberty City Press is a collaborative publication effort of the Philadelphia Multicultural Media Network.

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PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  
PGN April 18 - 24, 2014  

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