Former Stoneleigh Fellow and current Board Member Kevin Bethel spoke to the Philadelphia School District’s Board of Education Thursday about how he plans to retrain school safety officers to create a culture where everyone feels safe and respected in schools.
Members of the Board of Education indicated support Thursday for “re-imagining” rather than disbanding its school police force, despite numerous and fervent pleas from students, parents and teachers that the very concept of uniformed security in school traumatizes and criminalizes Black and brown young people.
At the same time, several board members told retired Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, who now oversees safety in the District, that they expect him to deliver on his promise to retrain his 350 officers to “create a culture where every person feels safe and respected” in school.
Bethel defended the need for school security and promised it will look very different for students when they return to school in the fall. “We have been focused on [reform] for quite some time,” Bethel said, not just in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protest and heightened awareness of racial injustice. He and Superintendent William Hite, backed by Board President Joyce Wilkerson, have said they want to make Philadelphia’s school safety approach a national model.