In the first two months of this school year, 1,048 serious incidents of student misconduct - from from bringing a gun to school to assaulting a teacher - were recorded inside city public schools, officials said yesterday.
The report comes amid an order from superintendent Arlene Ackerman to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on student discipline, and as the School Reform Commission voted to expel its first student in nearly three years.
In the past, the district bypassed expulsion even for its most violent students, sometimes leaving them in the classrooms where they committed their offenses.
Making a presentation to the commission yesterday, Tomas Hanna, chief school operations officer, said of the reported incidents: 11 involved cases where a gun was brought to school; 91 were for drug or alcohol offenses; 460 cases were for assaults on staff; 486 involved incidents where students ganged up on other students.
Hanna said 32 students were withdrawn from the district before any action was taken.
Of the total who remained, 32 percent were transferred to disciplinary schools. Eight percent were handled by transferring kindergarten, first- and second-grade pupils laterally to other schools or keeping them in the same school, since the children were too young for disciplinary placement.
Twenty-three percent were classified as having special needs, and a determination was being made whether a transfer to disciplinary school is appropriate. Three percent are in the process of being transferred to disciplinary schools, and 4 percent - 43 students - are in the midst of a formal expulsion process.
About 31 percent of the reports were unfounded.
The two-month period saw a slight rise over the same period last year, when 1,028 offenses were committed in those categories.
The commission voted to formally change its expulsion policy yesterday, clarifying that students expelled from the district will not be turned loose on the streets but educated in district alternative schools unless their parents say otherwise.
"We want no interruption in the educational programs of our young people," Hanna said.
Sheila Simmons, education director for the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said she hoped the district would focus as much on prevention and praise as it did on meting out discipline.
Simmons also said that she had heard reports of delays in disciplinary hearings and of students as young as 10 being sent to disciplinary schools.
Ben Wright, regional superintendent for alternative schools, said he knew of no 10-year-olds in disciplinary schools but would investigate. District officials said they would look into delays in hearings.
The commission also voted to lower the compulsory school age to 6. Pennsylvania state law had required children age 8 and older to attend school, but a law pushed by State Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.) changed that age to 6 for children in Philadelphia.
"This makes no sense to me," Roebuck said of the 8-year-old compulsory age, which still stands for the rest of the state. "I wish that we were doing it for the entire commonwealth."