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Editorial: Can't learn in bad schools

There were 15,000 criminal incidents in the Philadelphia public schools last year - a 14 percent jump from the previous year.

There were 15,000 criminal incidents in the Philadelphia public schools last year - a 14 percent jump from the previous year.

District CEO Arlene Ackerman has taken steps to bolster school safety. Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner toured two city schools last week and proclaimed a "new day" when it comes to school safety.

But if what occurred inside the Philly schools just a couple of weeks ago reflects a "new day," then we'd hate to see what was going on in the old days.

The Editorial Board has reviewed all of the reports detailing incidents that occurred in the schools from June 1-5. The two-inch-thick pile of reports offers a rare glimpse inside the classrooms and halls of city schools.

It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it's rather disturbing, showing just how much effort it's going to take by Ackerman to really turn the situation around.

The incidents range from students bringing knives and guns to school, masturbating in class, going to school drunk, pulling down other students' pants, making death threats, punching a teacher in the face, stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment, throwing an eraser at a teacher's head, and stuffing feces in bathroom sinks.

One 8-year-old second grader at McClure Elementary School pulled out his penis and threatened to rape another student.

Here's a snapshot of some other incidents that occurred, all before lunch on one random day:

At 8:30 a.m. on June 1, a teacher in Room 300 at University City High School asked a student to stop eating food in class. The student refused. When the teacher attempted to take the food away, the student smacked him in his face.

Fifteen minutes later, a fight broke out inside Room 309 of Lee Elementary School between two seventh graders. One student sustained facial injuries. While trying to break up the fight, the teacher fell and injured her ankle.

Just after 11 a.m., a second-grade girl at Meade Elementary School assaulted another student. When the teacher intervened, the 8-year-old began punching her in the arm and shoulder.

At 11:30 a.m., a third-grade girl at Morris Elementary approached another student with a pair of scissors in her hand and said "I'm going to cut your s- up. Get the f- out of my face."

Around the same time, a student at Clymer Elementary grabbed a fire extinguisher from the hallway near Room 405 and began spraying a teacher in the face.

Just after noon, two first graders approached another first grader at the Ethel Allen Elementary School. One student held her from behind and began "humping" her, while the other student started kissing her on the face.

The picture that quickly emerges shows that many schools remain dangerous. While there have been some improvements, the school district still has a lot of work to do when kids return in the fall.