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Hamlet Says Home Trauma, Threat Of Gun Violence & Overzealous Discipline Remain Challenges For PPS

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Schools


From the beginning, Pittsburgh Public Schools' Superintendent Anthony Hamlet says it's been his goal to improve students' mental health, address racial disparities and close the district's historically troubling achievement gaps. 

Among his 137-point strategic plan, Hamlet, who's responsible for 25,000 students across 54 schools, points to implementing restorative discipline, minimizing school suspensions and offering more time to staffers for collaborative learning and development.

Restorative practice ideally brings the victim and the perpetrator back together, he said, offering opportunity for understanding and making amends. But Hamlet said those efforts won't eliminate the need for some suspensions. Black students make up 53 percent of Pittsburgh Public's student population, though they account for three-quarters of suspensions. 

Some onus has to remain with the parents, he said, but the district wants to be a resource.

“Some kids have so much trauma at home, you could say they have PTSD,” he said.

Hamlet said a new code of conduct is helping, as is a new ban on out-of-school suspensions for nonviolent offences in children below third grade. 

“Sometimes parents don’t know how to raise kids the right way,” Hamlet said. “So we might reach out and get some parent counseling. We might have social workers come in and support kids.”

Schools and students are also being trained in the ALICE procedure: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The move comes as some parents have suggested traditional active shooter drills can traumatize younger students or those who've already been affected by gun violence.

Later in the program, 90.5 WESA's Kevin Gavin chats with David Greene, Pittsburgh native and NPR Morning Edition host, about the most average team in professional sports.

90.5 WESA's Bill O'Driscoll instroduces a dance piece from Beth Corning's Glue Factory series, "Waiting Room," which was inspired by the Jewish custom of someone attending the body of a recently deceased person.

And we check in on the Pittsburgh area jobs market ahead of Labor Day with Chris Briem, regional economist at the Urban & Regional Analysis Program at the University of Pittsburgh, and Doug Heuck, journalist and founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here.