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Philadelphia Student Union talks about school policing on Columbine anniversary

psu Our Lives Our Future event
Darryl C. Murphy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

After students across the nation participated in walkouts a second time this year to raise awareness of gun law reform, the Philadelphia Student Union hosted Our Lives, Our Future Summit to discuss school safety alternatives. Friday’s walkout also commemorated the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

The student organization didn’t join students around the nation in a walkout because, said Julien Terrell, executive director of PSU, it now wants to focus on strategies that go beyond school shootings and examine school policing.

“We felt that the best way we could support the conversation was to hold space for students who wanted to envision after they marched,” said Terrell. “The problem we’re trying to deal with – school policing and creating a new vision for school safety – it didn’t start in February. This has been years and years in the making.”

About 50 people, many of whom were non-PSU students, gathered at the William Way LGBTQ Center on Spruce Street in Center City. Panelists were Miguel E. Andrade of JUNTOS; Isaac “Ikey Raw” Gardner, a parent from Solis-Cohen Elementary and a radio personality on WURD; Yvelisse Pelotte, a lawyer from Education Law Center; Ismael Jimenez, an African American History teacher at Kensington CAPA; and Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate for ACLU Pennsylvania and a member of the Notebook board of directors.

The panelists offered their experiences and insight along with information about student rights with regard to school safety and school police.

L’thah Carter, a junior at Math, Civics & Sciences Charter School, said he attended the event to learn about different options to make schools safer.

“Either school policing could be reformed or entirely out of schools and transfer to another better form of security in high schools,” he said. “I’ve seen and heard of instances where school policing has not been beneficial and I think that gives enough reason to research how to reform school policing.”

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