The second day of the Inquirer’s week-long series on school violence, which can be seen at http://bit.ly/gP7ni4, makes the following statement:
“By examining district data and school police incident reports for a five-year period dating to the 2005-2006 school year, The Inquirer was able to identify numerous examples of tardy notification, failure to report, and statistical discrepancies pointing to the active suppression of information that would reveal how violent Philadelphia schools really are….”
It is clear that school violence remains a problem in city schools. But the Inky depends far too heavily on anecdotal evidence, anonymous sources and individuals who have personal rather than objective opinions. Also, the target is the central administration, which may or may not be to blame.
The main story begins and ends with an anecdotal story about a former sixth-grade student in Tioga’s Cleveland Elementary School. The girl was taunted. Her breasts were fondled. Her attackers did not face punishment for more than two months.
The story is sad. She should have gotten justice far more quickly. One parent complained that she had to take her daughter to the hospital after a fight broke out. She said the school should have called an ambulance to take the child to the hospital. Another parent complained that her son suffered a broken finger in a fight. The Inky needs far more serious incidents than these to prove its case.
The sources include the former head of security who was replaced, a former advocate who got fired, the teachers’ union leader, angry parents and teachers who requested to remain anonymous. That’s just not good enough to make the allegations set out in the article that the district has been engaged in “the active suppression of information that would reveal how violent Philadelphia schools really are.”
The newspaper needs more sources on the record from people without agendas.
Buried deep in the story is the following:
Michael Lerner, recently retired head of the district’s principals union, said his members face difficult situations every day.
He cited an example: A fight breaks out. The loser alleges he or she was assaulted. Is it an assault?
Or perhaps an employee “provokes” an assault by a child, he said. Or maybe a child has learning or emotional disabilities.
“It isn’t all that simple,” he said. “There are so many mitigating factors in many of these cases, that it isn’t black and white. It is a very, very difficult position for many principals. I know for the most part they do report.”
Although he is a former union official and principal, his comments seem to make the most sense of anyone in the story.
It seems clear that the district administrators, principals, teachers and security personnel have become distant and disconnected from each other–like a poorly run business. It seems, however, that the newspaper, like many of us, consider schools as the primary place to learn respect for others. The schools cannot correct what is not learned at home. The schools simply become a mirror of the troubles at home and can do little to mitigate the underlying problems within our society.