Educator conference discusses balance between counselors, armed officers in schools

Steve Tawa
April 01, 2019 - 1:38 pm
School District of Philadelphia

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio, file

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — At a National School Boards Association conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, more than 7,000 educators from around the country are discussing best practices and cutting-edge strategies to help kids learn.

As the Philadelphia School District and others urban and rural across the country strive to keep children safe, there are challenges in providing safe learning enviornments. One of the workshops explored whether to arm staff, and who that might include, in schools. 

"A carefully seleted, specifically trained law enforcement officer," said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. 

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Asked whether to arm teachers or other individuals, he said, "We, as law enforcment, we train for the unfortunate event of having to take a life. I would hate to see teachers saddled with that, along with trying to teach children, which is what they were hired to do."

In the Philadelphia School District, school police officers must complete four weeks of initial training and 24 hours of staff development each year.

But Jody Greenblatt, deputy chief for climate and safety at the School District of Philadelphia, points out they also focus on dealing with the traumatic experiences students encounter, inside or outside of school, that may affect their performance, attendance or behavior.

"I wanted to focus more on the social and emotional needs of our students," she said, "including trauma, and what we are doing here in Philadelphia to support those needs."

Verjeana Jacobs, who is with the National School Boards Association, was heartened to learn about the push to deal with the social and emotional needs of students.

"Do we have more [School Resource Officers] than we have counselors and psychologists in schools? That's a critical point," she said.