Despite the positive report by the state's Safe Schools Advocate that serious incidents are down in Philadelphia schools, and an increased number of violent students are being expelled, the May 22 editorial "Rotten apples" disseminated misleading information and old news.
The editorial mistakenly criticized the district for "withholding" public information on the 2007-2008 serious incidents. In reality, the district releases serious-incident data throughout the school year directly to the media. Furthermore, on Oct. 15, the district publicly released the serious-incident data for the 2007-2008 school year in a detailed report from the district's School Safety Advisory Committee, coauthored by the Safe Schools Advocate. In fact, within the same Safe Schools Advocate report that The Inquirer incorrectly accused the district of withholding, the advocate praises the district for its "honest reporting of incidents," and calls for other school districts to be held to the same standard Philadelphia has achieved.
To its credit, your editorial correctly acknowledged that under Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman's leadership, the district is making significant progress in reducing serious incidents of school violence. During the 2008-2009 school year, our Violent Crime Index has shown a 13.6 percent drop in violent incidents so far. You also accurately noted that we have referred 55 students for expulsion, with more than 100 additional expulsion cases in the pipeline.
Chief of school operations
School District of Philadelphia