Creating a Comprehensive and Sustainable Philadelphia School Safety Strategy

Stoneleigh Fellow: Jody Greenblatt, 2012-2015

In 2011, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an in-depth series on violence in Philadelphia public schools titled “Assault on Learning.”  The Inquirer revealed that during a single school year (2010-2011), more than 4,500 incidents of violence were reported.  Shockingly, this figure did not fully reflect the extent of the school safety crisis, as many daily occurrences – ranging from school bullying to assaults on teachers – were not reported.  

At the time, the District was using a variety of piecemeal approaches to address school violence, such as “zero tolerance” policies, video cameras, metal detectors, security guards, expulsions, disciplinary schools, and referrals to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.  While some schools had implemented evidence-based positive behavior supports, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission acknowledged that it needed a better understanding of where and how these approaches were being used and what impact they had. Furthermore, the Commission recognized that the District would need a clear mechanism to provide ongoing training, support, and direction so that successful interventions could be sustained.

To address these issues, Jody Greenblatt was awarded a Stoneleigh Fellowship to work with the School Reform Commissioners, District leaders, and youth-serving system partners to develop a comprehensive school safety and climate strategy.  During her three-year fellowship, she:

Catalogued what programs were already in place within the District, as well as their costs, effectiveness and ability to be replicated.

Increased cross-systems collaboration by engaging numerous City departments (including Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, Department of Community Behavioral Health and Police Department) and multiple units within the District (including research and evaluation; teacher effectiveness; and the office of the superintendent) to address school climate issues.

Helped create a revised Student Code of Conduct that is less punitive and framed around interventions and alternatives to suspension.  The new Student Code of Conduct was informed by Jody’s extensive work to gather input from students, parents, teachers, principals and assistant superintendents; the District’s legal team, truancy officer and human resources office; and chief of school police.

Developed a school climate tool to assist schools in creating climate plans.  In addition to developing the tool, Jody and a diverse team of internal and external experts traveled to schools to train principals on how to use it. Going forward, the tool will be administered by the schools themselves.

Helped the District to integrate “trauma-informed” practice at all levels.  Jody conducted numerous principal trainings focused on improving school climate, eliminating bullying, and implementing the revised Student Code of Conduct.  She also collaborated with the Philadelphia Police Department to ensure more than 100 police staff completed Youth Mental Health First Aid training.  Jody has also worked with Stoneleigh Fellow Dr. Ted Corbin to develop trainings for staff and teachers around trauma-informed practices, and with Stoneleigh Fellow Lisa Jones to introduce evidence-based social and emotional learning programming to targeted schools.  

Ensured the ongoing sustainability of the work by establishing a dedicated leadership team to monitor the fidelity of implementation of these initiatives and to identify opportunities for practice expansion.  Her efforts have already yielded two major grants to continue this work: a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the Department of Education’s School Climate Transformation program and a grant from Philadelphia Foundation and other funders to introduce two evidence-based programs to more than 30 District schools.  She will continue to oversee this work in her capacity as the District's new Deputy Chief for Climate and Safety.