New Philadelphia police school safety zones coming, but much more demanded

Calls for educational, anti-violence help come in wake of deadly shooting outside Lincoln High

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There have been at least four shootings outside of Philadelphia public schools this academic year, including the latest on Monday that left a 66-year-old grandfather dead and a 16-year-old in critical condition.

Administrators, clergy, leaders, and community stakeholders gathered in North Philadelphia on Wednesday and made demands for solutions for safer schools.

Philadelphia Police Department Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales said they are ramping up police presence during arrivals and dismissals around 35 schools at risk for gun violence.

"We are up to 25 zones. The numbers constantly change based on our staffing, but we are focusing on schools that have a potential for increased violence," said Dales.

"We established 25 zones which will cover 35 schools."

Councilmember Helen Gym said the school safety zones are welcome but long overdue, and more needs to be done.

"In addition to a police buffer zone, we need safe corridors, partnerships with community organizations and community mentors and leaders...to ensure that our children go from the school door to the front door safe, cared for, and looked out for," said Gym.

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"We know, though, that our schools are suffering right now from significant vacancies from a lot of trauma and mental health supports, which are always promised that net but never seem to make their way actually into people’s lives from guaranteed after-school, out-of-school time programs and neighborhoods most impacted by violence, and guaranteed employment for our high school youth who have so much promise to give to this city."

School administrators also took to the mic to express their outrage with the violence.

Shavonne McMillan, principal at Vaux Big Picture High School, boasted the successes and violence-related struggles of her two-year tenure.

"We have seen over 80% of our students earn internships, and over 90% of our seniors graduate from high school," she said.

"We also bury three current or former students. Three more students suffered gunshot wounds, and several students have either injured or exited our doors who have had weapon charges."

Both administrators and city officials say that more support is needed from the community to help patrol school zones.

Dales promised more information on the safe corridors next week, stating that additional meetings are planned with administrators to finalize details.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Antionette Lee/KYW Newsradio