Return to Headlines

Hamlet: Task force will examine disparities, biases in safety at Pittsburgh's public schools

The Pittsburgh Public Schools on Tuesday announced the formation of a task force that will support efforts to eliminate systemic race- and ability-based inequities across the district.

The “Re-Imagine School Safety Task Force” will examine school safety policies and develop measures that seek to reduce the harm of punitive measures on students — particularly students of color — in the new year.

“Our district will not bring back our Black students to live and learn under the same racially biased environment that they left a year ago,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said during a press conference. “We will no longer set up Black students to fail; the school to prison pipeline and achievement gaps will end.”

The task force emerged from a resolution passed in September by the school board aimed at increasing the transparency and accountability of the district’s safety department.

School board member Devon Taliaferro, who introduced the resolution with Pam Harbin, said the measure was written to address the district’s long record of disproportionately suspending and arresting Black students and students with disabilities.

“These systemic actions have often led to our students’ loss of important time from the classroom and interaction with peers, and potentially leading to their involvement in the criminal justice system,” Ms. Taliaferro said. “The perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline has no place in our district and community. Our mission and No. 1 goal as the Pittsburgh Public School board of directors is to create safe, healthy and equitable schools for all PPS students.”

The more than 30 task force members include district students, parents, teachers, administrators, police officers, equity advocates and others and will meet for the first time on Jan. 21

The resolution from Ms. Taliaferro and Ms. Harbin directed the task force to hold listening sessions with district staff, students and parents, conduct a review of the school safety manual, evaluate the effectiveness of current practices, and recommend strategies for enhancing student safety and well-being through additional social, emotional and other supports.

The same resolution also directed the district to create a public database that combines school police data with student demographic information.

The task force coincides with a larger district strategy aimed at ending systemic inequities known as the “On Track to Equity” plan.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hamlet: Task force will examine disparities, biases in safety at Pittsburgh's public schools