A group of students committed to nonviolent Philadelphia public schools Wednesday called on officials to fund programs that keep schools safe and students on track.
Students from around the city underscored the need for effective alternative schools, bilingual counseling assistants, and student success centers - all of which will lose funding in the Philadelphia School District's newly adopted 2011-12 budget.
"We need these things that keep us safe and accelerate a positive climate," said Khalif Dobson, a graduate of West Philadelphia High who attends Pennsylvania State University. "A lot of times with budget cuts, we cut things that build relationships and keep kids in school."
Benjamin Franklin High senior Khairi Mace said his school stood to lose its student success center, where students receive academic and social supports, college information, and career counseling
"If there was no SSC for my school, I really don't think as many seniors would be graduating, or would be as prepared for life after Franklin," Mace said at an afternoon news conference. "They are the safest place to go during lunch and after school for students, and have positive and trusted staff."
Trang Dang, a junior at South Philadelphia High, decried a 50 percent cut to bilingual counseling assistants (BCAs), aides who provide language services to immigrant students and families.
"If there were bilingual counseling support for all the languages spoken in my school, more students would be graduating," Dang said.
Students called on the city officials, now in talks to provide more funding to the district, to earmark any new money for such "proven programs and services" - including Restorative Practices, a program that focuses not on punishing offenders but on repairing harm done and addressing underlying problems.
Restorative Practices has been credited with helping to calm a violent West Philadelphia High over the last few years. But the program ended, and violence has since spiked at the school.
A recent Inquirer investigation into school violence found that proven antiviolence efforts such as Restorative Practices are applied haphazardly across the district, and not used on a wide scale.