For example, consider the City of Philadelphia's public schools. The 2014-2015 school year represents the first time the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was not named on the list of “Persistently Dangerous Schools” that’s published annually by Commonwealth’s Department of Education. It was as recent as the 2013-2014 school year that SDP reported 2,485 violent incidents.
Mediation? Isn't that psychobabble, the stuff of "Can't we all just get along?" Why not incarceration? When it comes to school violence, isn't it time for young people to learn there are consequences for their conduct?
What’s happening at a Philadelphia charter middle and high school—Freire Charter School—suggests it may be time to reconsider the concept of mediation when it comes to non-violent conflict.
According Watchdog.org, the school has a "zero-tolerance" policy when it comes to physical violence, verbal violence, and bullying. Students from 5th to 12th grade are held to high standards of conduct, not only in the classroom but also beyond school grounds. Any violent conduct results in expulsion...no second chances. That sounds more like a private or parochial school than a public school.
But, non-violent conflict is dealt with through mediation. At Friere:
- Students can take fellow students or teachers to mediation.
- If the mediation is successful, the parties sign a contract.
- Any violations of the contract will result in another round of mediation.
Hmmm…Teachers being hauled before a mediator? Endless rounds of mediation? Where does all of this end?
Apparently, it works at Friere:
- In 2013, U.S. News and World Report listed the charter school among the nation's "Best High Schools" after 94% of its graduates were attending college. Considering the SDP’s high dropout rate, that’s pretty impressive.
- Better yet, in 2014, students graduating from the charter school received ~$60k/student in scholarships.
Most importantly, the charter school keeps parents involved. Using its "Power School" software program, parents are kept abreast of their children's grades, attendance, and conduct. In addition, students struggling in classes are matched with peer tutors, who—under the supervision of adults—are paid to assist those struggling students.
Same neighborhoods. Same families. Generally the same curriculum. Different approaches to discipline. Different outcomes.
Charter schools generally outperform public schools, magnet schools being a different case. Why should the public school teachers’ union bosses fear them if their primary focus is “the children”?
Let the discussion begin…
To read the Watchdog.org article, click on the following link:
“Violent schools? A Philadelphia charter has answers.”