Getting set for school

PCHR helped train hundreds of principals on bullying and harassment issues as part of back-to-school prep offered by the School District of Philadelphia, held at Benjamin Franklin High School on Friday.

The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Anti-Defamation League joined PCHR at the principals’ summit.

Classes are set to begin in September, but recent funding woes has curtailed certainty on the opening date.

Deputy Director Randy Duque presents before 300 principals at the School District of Philadelphia's annual get-set prep.

Deputy Director Randy Duque presents before 300 principals at the School District of Philadelphia’s annual get-set prep.

That didn’t stop Deputy Director Randy Duque from reviewing the type of support PCHR can offer principals when they resume their desks. That might be matching them with the right resources to diffuse or even help in preventing conflicts between groups. And the audience leaned in to grab every word.

“PCHR has a history working with the school district, with good results,” Duque said. “And we’re always ready to assist schools in promoting peace and restoring safety when called upon.”

Last school year, there were 660 assaults reported in Philadelphia public schools, according to district figures. With funding uncertainty looming, many in the city fear that such incidents could tick upward.

Recent history has shown that arguments – between students, parents, or other adults in a community – that begin at the neighborhood level sometimes can spill into the school, jeopardizing safety and harming student-to-student relations.

Helping to stem school violence at times may start outside of the school, but with insight from principals, disputes can be nipped at the source, Duque said.

“This time with the principals helps advance the Community Relation Division’s mission, getting out there and letting people know what we have done and can do,” he said. “Many of the principals in the district may be new and not as familiar with us and our work. This was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to them, and to re-introduce ourselves to their more seasoned peers.

“It’s all about building relationships in the community. That’s why the CRD team will be out this fall, visiting schools and seeing how we can strengthen those community ties,” Duque added.

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