In just a little over four months, school shootings, and violence in general, have once again proven to be a huge problem inside public schools. According to data from Education Week, the nation has already seen 22 school shootings in 2022, claiming the lives of 6 people and injuring 32 others. School violence is on the rise in major cities, and a recent student panel presented in Philadelphia reveals just how “petrified” students are to enter school buildings every morning in the City of Brotherly Love.
Sometimes, the best perspective on school violence doesn’t come from who you might think it should. That perspective doesn’t come from constituents in congress, social media fanatics, or even educators and parents. Sometimes, it comes fright from the mouths of babes. In a continuing effort to study the impact of rising school violence on school staff and students in Philadelphia, students in the city were invited to discuss the issue in a Chalkbeat sponsored panel. Collectively, many students depicted how “petrified” they are to go to school each and every day.
More than 100 students attended the virtual panel in a joint venture that involved Resolve Philly. Both students, faculty, and the city’s superintendent weighed in on the troubling trends of school violence and how it has impacted students. As students shared their thoughts, a concerning trend found that most students feel unsafe and that the issues aren’t being addressed at the level it needs to be.
“Once you experience gun violence in your family, in any group that you’re in, you go back to school, school should be a community,” said Erin Gill-Wilson, a junior at George Washington Carver Engineering and Science High School. Furthermore, Gill-Wilson addressed concerns that schools need to shift more attention to the mental aspect of the issue. Instead of “jumping back into schoolwork, “students and teachers need support and time to talk about the experiences felt during times of raised school violence. Armando Ortez, a senior at Northeast High School stated that students were “petrified” to go to school.
The Philadelphia school district does have resources in place to aid students dealing with trauma such as that from school violence. But some say that they aren’t enough, and are often hard to find. Lisa Christian, the director of counseling services at the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia helps to provide counseling to students who have been impacted by violence. Also feeling that the resources available aren’t enough, Christian said that the action needs to come from the community level to combat the growing issue. She says that adding more resources to places like libraries and recreation centers is a starting point.
School officials are continuing collaboration efforts to address the school violence epidemic as well. The chief of safety for Philadelphia schools, Kevin Bethel, said it is a “collective, all-hands approach.” Furthermore, he said, “This is not normal. What our kids are being exposed to, what our leadership is being exposed to, is not normal. We have allowed this to get normalized in our space. That is not acceptable.”
So far this year, the city of Philadelphia has seen over 145 homicides. That number is up 6% from the same time recorded just last year. As it pertains to school violence, the numbers are alarming with gun violence. Teenagers and children comprise a growing number of victims and perpetrators in cases of gun violence. 96 fatal and nonfatal shooting victims were between the ages of 13-19, and 12 homicide victims were young people under 18, according to the Chalkbeat report.
School violence is on the rise, and it is a problem major cities like Philadelphia feel needs to be addressed immediately. The sentiments are heard, and students have now made their voices loud and clear regarding the issues. Whether or not the community efforts experts speak of to address the issue make a dent in the problem, however, is yet to be seen.