This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Newly appointed Safe Schools Advocate Kelley Hodge said that a report released in January by the District’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safe Schools provides a roadmap for understanding what needs to change regarding the District’s approach to improving school climate and stemming violence.
She also said she plans to investigate and assess each violent incident individually to determine the best response.
"There’s no cookie-cutter answer" to solving the problem of violence in schools, Hodge said, "but there should be a protocol that can be adjusted to specific situations."
The safe schools advocate position had been vacant since 2009.
Hodge, who has worked as a Philadelphia prosecutor and a public defender, was appointed in December. She also has served as assistant chief in the juvenile unit for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.
In her new role, she will work under the direction of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, acting as a voice for the victims of violent incidents and harassment in District schools.
From her office on the first floor at District headquarters on North Broad Street, Hodge will answer calls from students, parents, and teachers concerning violent incidents and evaluate the causes. After hearing the details of each situation, her office will explore alternatives to suspensions such as holding student-teacher mediations and student sessions with psychologists. She will also address the issue of accurate reporting of violent incidents.
Hodge said that making victims feel comfortable about reporting violent acts is paramount to her work.
Speaking out on behalf of the victims, Hodge said she will reach out to top District officials and school administrators to foster communication between the parties involved and ensure a positive outcome.
"If we can transform the thought process of administration and teachers, parents will pick up on the changes, and then the students," Hodge said.
"And if they can be excited and proud of their school, then differences will be seen."
The hotline for the Office of Safe Schools is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To report an incident, call 1-877-730-6315.