Parents, educators concerned for safety of Philadelphia students amid rising gun violence

As students prepare to head back to the classrooms, parents and educators worry about school safety amid Philadelphia's worsening gun violence crisis. 

Mayor Jim Kenney joined school district leaders on Monday for an update on back-to-school safety and programs for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Chief of School Safety Kevin Bethel said the district's plan will rely on a mix of school security officers, city police and parents to keep students safe. 

Philadelphia's public school system is one of the largest in the country, responsible for approximately 114,000 students. 

The district reported 47 public and charter school students were killed, mostly from gun violence. 

Bethel said the district will support "safe corridors" to and from eight schools in the city's most troubled neighborhoods, including Bartram High School where a student was slain last winter.

Part of the safety plan includes using police dogs to sniff-out guns hidden outside of school building. The district will not randomly check for weapons in middle and some elementary schools, but staff will be asked to stay alert. 

"Our parents, adults engaged with these young people are checking their bags making sure children are not taking their guns from their safes or guns they should not have and bringing them to schools," Bethel said. 


In an appearance on Good Day Philadelphia, Bethel also discussed the city's Safe Paths program, which originated in Chicago. 

Bethel says the district received a grant to give stipends to people in the community to help monitor areas around schools. 

The community members will not be armed and they will receive training, according to Bethel. 

The Safe Paths program will begin in eight schools and the district hopes to expand to others next year. 

According to the latest data from the Philadelphia Police Department, there have been 350 homicides in the city this year. That number is currently slightly outpacing the death toll of a historically bloody 2021, during which 562 people were killed. 

Ronda Koita, the parent of a Philadelphia school student, said she's "very concerned" about her son's safety. Likewise, educators like first grade teacher Cierra Bard shares the concern for her young students. 

"You hear about kids dying all the time, there's so much gun violence," Bard told FOX 29's Jeff Cole.