A Philadelphia School Board meeting was forced to recess on Thursday after dozens of students stormed the hall in protest over a controversial vote requiring all of the city’s high schools to use with metal detectors.
“Whose school? Our school!” the students chanted loudly. “Whose school? Our school!”
City Superintendent Dr. William Hite struggled to regain control of the meeting, as the students spoke out against the contested Policy 805, Philadelphia station ABC6 reported. School board members approved the measure in a 7-2 vote, requiring all 49 of the district’s high schools to be equipped with the security technology.
“Taking over a school board meeting is no way to make your voices heard,” Hite told the angry students. “This is not how me model discourse.”
ABC 6 reported that 46 of 49 of the district’s high schools currently use walk-through metal detectors and X-ray scanners. Last year alone, officials said the technology helped security personnel confiscate three firearms, five BB guns and 87 cutting instruments.
Proponents of the decision say the metal detectors are intended to keep students safe. Yet still, critics view the proposal as part of the “school-to-prison pipeline” targeting Black and other minority students.
“The culture of trust and respect at my school would be severely damaged by a metal detector and a police officer,” student Charles Mitchell told the board.
Students at the three magnet schools that don’t use metal detectors have also spoken out against the vote and have stood in solidarity with the Philadelphia Student Union, which staged Thursday night’s protest.
“I think the core issue is that Policy 805 should have started with student voices rather than a vote,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said at the meeting.
As reported by NPR affiliate WHYY, “Students and faculty campaigned against the metal detector policy in the weeks leading up to the vote, saying that it criminalized students, though the policy essentially targeted three schools that don’t use metal detectors: two Science Leadership Academy campuses and the Workshop School.”
Board president Joyce Wilkerson motioned for a recess after the students refused to let up with their demonstration, according to ABC6. Dr. Hite promised to address students’ concerns about being treated like criminals upon walking into school.
“We’re going to do work over the summer to re-train everyone whose managing these devices because it’s incumbent upon us the adults to make sure students feel valued,” the superintendent said.
That did little to appease PSU executive director Julien Terrell.
“We are not talking about conversations,” Terrell screamed. “We’re not talking about officers being nice. We are talking about the everyday traumatization of students.”
“We do not recognize the legitimacy of this board anymore,” he added.
Watch more in the video below.