Philadelphia DA Seth Williams addresses violence at Bartram H.S.

Watch report from Action News
April 12, 2014 3:14:16 PM PDT
From brawls in the cafeteria to attacks on officers put in place to keep the peace, during the past few weeks we have shown you disturbing scenes from Philadelphia's Bartram High School.

Members of the Bartram High School community came together Thursday night to begin the task of making the school a safer place.

"Our children need better perspective. They need better leadership. They need better parenting," said one parent.

Parents, teachers, and administrators are fed up with Bartram High. They want the school safer for promising students like freshman class president Gionna Hawkins.

"It's the students making the school look bad. The staff is doing their hardest. It is not like they come here not willing to teach us," said Gionna Hawkins.

"She wants more, so she doesn't get involved in the shenanigans," said Dawn Hawkins.

Today Philadelphia's District Attorney sat down with students to send a message: violence won't be tolerated.

Bartram High School in Philadelphia has been rocked by violent outbursts over the past few weeks. But it appears they're starting to turn the corner with stepped-up efforts by the Philadelphia School District and the police.

"It's more calmer," says 12th grader Enondrul Ruffin. "Everything's under more control. It's like if anything happens, the police are like, right there."

Uniformed police officers from Philadelphia's 12th District are supplementing the school's police force. Plus, the district has brought in "The Enforcer" Ozzie Wright, who is now a co-principal. He has turned around other troubled schools and now it's Bartram's turn.

His first order of business at Bartram is to enforce rules like the dress code and to increase the police presence in the short term.

Wright has been at the school a week now and says the rules are being enforced.

"I see a great improvement," Wright told Action News. "I see staff being deployed. I see students moving to where they have to be."

If you walk down the halls of Bartram High school and you'll see some subtle changed, but Principal Wright says they can make a big difference; one of them a fresh coat of paint.

And if walk into one of the many bathrooms in the high school and you will now see smoke alarms. Wright says students in the past have smoked cigarettes and marijuana in the lavatories.

"If students see it is a nice place to come to then they will respect it a lot better; that's what we do in our homes, that's what we want to do at Bartram High School," said Wright.

Until now, chaos has ruled in Bartram High School. Within the past few weeks, a school conflict resolution officer was sucker-punched and suffered a fractured skull when he hit the floor. Video of another brawl in the cafeteria surfaced as well.

"It was weird," Derry Warfield, a 10th grader said. "I didn't even know what to do. I just sat down," adding that he was frightened.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams met with 40 students to lay down the law and listen to their concerns. He was surprised to hear that cell phones and social media are now driving the violence. Insults and taunts spread instantly through the school. Some teens even instigate fights so they can capture it on video and then post it online.

"Instantaneously, information is shared through Facebook and through Twitter," Williams said. "That's a phenomenon that that we have to deal with."

The disputes are as old as the hills, but thanks to technology the fires burn much faster. The school has cracked down on cellphone use, and they report only four fights over the past week, which is actually an improvement.

"I want them to be part of the solution to make the school safer. It is a very small percentage of the students making the school a living hell for the teachers, staff and other students," said Williams

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