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Philadelphia Student Union, Advancement Project National Office Pen Policy 805 Opposition Letter to Philadelphia Board of Education

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — The Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), supported by Advancement Project National Office, has publicly opposed the Philadelphia Board of Education’s proposed Policy 805 “Emergency Preparedness,” urging that the policy will reinforce a nationwide trend of seemingly investing in the safety of students, but actually criminalizing Black and Brown students, LGBTQIA+ youth, and children with disabilities.

Policy 805 “Emergency Preparedness” last revised in August 2016, acts as the foundation for the School District of Philadelphia’s system of emergency preparedness to ensure that the health and safety of students and staff are safeguarded. Administrative procedures for Policy 805 mandate that all high schools use walk-through metal detectors and x-ray scanners at all points of student and visitor entry.

Julien A. Terrell, Executive Director for PSU explained, “We want young people to be safe, but this is the wrong plan and the wrong investment of our tax dollars. Our youth don’t need to feel like suspects walking in to a place of learning. The School District has not studied the current safety conditions and are willing to spend more funds on policing and security systems without engaging the people who will be most impacted by their decision. There should be no mandate of metal detectors but instead investments in supports for young people that create a learning environment where they can thrive.”

Andrew Hairston, Advancement Project Staff Attorney stated, “Metal detectors feign safety but in actuality only further the criminalize Black and Brown youth in their places of learning. There’s a lack of evidence of their effectiveness but there is research showing that the presence of metal detectors may detrimentally impact student perceptions of safety.”

Black students comprised 51 percent of the enrollment in Philadelphia public schools, yet they accounted for a striking 71 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 75 percent of expulsions, according to the 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection of the U.S. Department of Education.

Any further investment in policies that allow for the policing and criminalization of students in their places of learning must come to an end in order to avoid the exacerbation of the school-to-prison pipeline and making Black and Brown young people feel unwelcome in their schools.

PSU and Advancement Project National Office urge the Board of Education reject policies that give the appearance of safety in schools and instead, meaningfully engaging the Philadelphia community in determining what will truly make young people feel safe in school. In addition to this demand, PSU set forth a full list of demands, below:

  • No Metal Detectors should be added at Workshop School, SLA and SLA Beeber Decision-making authority for future placement of metal detectors and school police should remain with principals and should not be mandated.
  • The School Board should mandate an assessment of the effectiveness of the current school safety plan including the Office of School Safety which has continued to receive funds without any real evaluation of its operations. This should include:
  • Use of funds, hiring practices, records of complaints and violations and assess ment of current policies overseeing school police and security.
  • The School Board should mandate a town hall on emergency preparedness to give students, parents and teachers space to share their thoughts and recommendations on school safety and emergency planning.
  • Mandate risk assessment for any new funds allocated to school safety and security that includes review of current spending, effectiveness of current measures used, potential risk of increasing staffing and infrastructure and viable alternatives to be weighed alongside.

For more information on the Philadelphia Student Union, visit: http://phillystudentunion.org/ 

For more information on Advancement Project National Office, visit: https://national.advancementproject.org/

Click here to view the full opposition letter.

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The Philadelphia Student Union exists to build the power of young people to demand a high quality education in the Philadelphia public school system. We are a youth led organization and we make positive changes in the short term by learning how to organize to build power. We also work toward becoming life-long learners and leaders who can bring diverse groups of people together to address the problems that our communities face.

Advancement Project National Office is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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