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Pittsburgh Public Schools announces new equity task force, lays out plans for return to buildings

Pittsburgh Public Schools on Tuesday announced the development of a new task force to recommend and influence policies that combat racial disparities in school safety.

“I can share with you with great certainty that our district will not bring Black students back to live and learn under the same racially-biased environment that they left a year ago,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said.

The announcement was one of many points in an hour-long update with local news media, in which district officials detailed the district’s plans and goals for 2021. The new year will include the phased return of in-person classes, the new task force and the implementation of “Imagine PPS,” the district’s five-year plan.

Hamlet said the pandemic “ripped the scabs off the inequities” that existed in the district and nationwide – compounded even more by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year at the hands of police. The new task force is meant to address those inequities and reduce student involvement in the criminal justice system, often called the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The school board had voted in September to evaluate available police data and use the information to determine measures for reducing the disproportional arrests, citations and suspensions in Pittsburgh Public Schools among students of color. That resolution charged board members to form the Re-Imagine School Safety Task Force.

Board member Devon Taliaferro, who introduced the September resolution with board member Pam Harbin, said the task force will provide the board with recommendations to influence policies and develop strategies for implementing school safety more equitably. The majority of the task force members will come from the community, and the group will include representatives from Black Girls Equity Alliance, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Latino Community Center and students and administrators in the district. The first meeting will be Jan. 21.

“Our mission and No. 1 goal,” Taliaferro said, “is to create safe, healthy and equitable schools for all PPS students.”

“This is one giant step in the right direction as we continue to move forward in the New Year,” she added.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Public Schools announces new equity task force, lays out plans for return to buildings