Despite three brawls in three different Philadelphia high schools over the past three weeks, school district chief Paul Vallas thinks things are under control.
During mid-to-late October a number of area high schools have been plagued by considerable altercations. On Oct. 15, roughly 450 Abraham Lincoln High School students were involved in a food fight, following an altercation between two groups of male students earlier in the day. Almost all of the police in northeast Philadelphia were dispatched to the school, located in Mayfair, and were welcomed with thrown bottles and outright assaults.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the conflict marked the third of recent clashes involving students from the school. A week prior to the food fight incident, 23 youths were arrested for fighting near the school; five were confirmed students and will likely face expulsion. On Sept. 30, three students were arrested after a quarrel with a school security officer.
On Oct. 21, 22 and 25, a series of fights between Germantown High School students produced 15 suspensions and a gunshot wound suffered by 15-year-old Sam Evans, a Germantown freshman who was shot in the back. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Evans was then kicked in the back by a 17-year-old boy while he lay bleeding on the ground.
More recently, two groups of female students came to blows in the Benjamin Franklin High School cafeteria. Police arrested 11 of the girls, along with a male student and a 39-year-old woman.
Following the latest conflict Mr. Vallas had the nerve to downplay the incidents by asking Philadelphia residents to “Remember there are 265 [district] schools.” Vallas also emphasized that only three district high schools out of 60 were host to violence.
This is the same Mr. Vallas that said after the Lincoln High food fight, “We are not going to tolerate this.”
Though Vallas may not accept it, the fact remains that altercations are continuing to erupt throughout area schools. Granted, violence has been steady in Philadelphia schools for years. But by imploring citizens to practically ignore the problem, Vallas is doing a disservice to students in harm’s way and area residents who care about educational success in a safe environment.
Vallas understands that the violent city atmosphere in areas surrounding city high schools is pervading and disrupting the learning process. But enacting a laissez-faire policy will do nothing to address the problem. Rather, Vallas needs to have a reciprocal relationship with parents and family members. He must ensure safety within the walls of area schools while demanding parents and family members to place more emphasis on the importance of education. Simply telling the community that everything is under control emits a sense of mismanagement and an air of naivety.
Vallas has said that “Zero tolerance is zero tolerance,” but with literally hundreds of students involved in violent behavior throughout the month of October alone, we wonder if Mr. Vallas can do the math that will solve this problem.