The School District of Philadelphia has received a $1 million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to address youth violence. This award will be used to fund implementation of the Youth Violence Reduction Initiative at John Bartram High School.

“We are thrilled to be bringing in more dollars to our District to support intervention efforts for our youth,” said Superintendent Tony B. Watlington, Ed.D. “While we know that our schools are still the safest  places for our students, the rising gun violence in the city is traumatizing for everyone. This initiative will enhance our safety efforts by working to target and support youth at risk of gang involvement.”

This Office of School Safety initiative develops and implements the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model, an existing evidence-based, data-driven community model, for a school setting. Recognizing that one entity alone cannot stop youth violence, this program works to reduce relatively high rates of gang and youth gun violence by engaging with a multidisciplinary team, including Temple University, CureViolence, the District’s Office of Support Services, community organizations in the southwest, and other criminal justice agencies, including the Philadelphia Police Department, and the juvenile probation department. The Neubauer Foundation provided initial funding for planning of this project.

A project assistant will be on-site at Bartram High School to support the project and will provide crisis intervention, violence interruption, de-escalation, and mediations alongside intensive case management services for youth identified as high risk for gang involvement.

“We are excited to receive this funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and add another layer of safety as we address the issues of violence in our community,” said Kevin Bethel, Chief of School Safety for the School District of Philadelphia. “Schools must remain safe places for students and we all have a collective responsibility in ensuring that our students are safe as they learn. To foster this approach, we have partnered with local agencies and stakeholders to develop a multidisciplinary team to provide effective restorative practices for our youth.”

Bartram is committed to fostering a student-centered learning environment that shapes well-rounded and holistically educated life-long learners who are passionate, productive and persevere to their fullest potential as they inherit the 21st century. The school was selected based on existing issues of violence in the community. The program is intended to reduce fatal and non-fatal shootings in the community surrounding the school and gang-involvement among students, while also improving attendance and overall academic achievement.

“I appreciate and embrace this offering since there are so many things happening in and around our schools and we need all the resources we can get to meet the needs of students and our community,” said Brian Johnson, Principal, John Bartram High School. “Since the pandemic, there’s been an uptick in community violence that is impacting students in our schools. What we hope this new initiative will do is provide options for our students, exposure to different programs and mentoring from folks right here in the community, which will provide them with a different type of connection to help them thrive now and beyond school.”

This grant will fund the implementation of this project, including two CureViolence Outreach Workers, consultants from Temple University, a community engagement expert, and case management software.

Although Bartram High School was selected as the first site for this program, the Office of School Safety will evaluate the success of this model to see if it can be expanded into other school communities.

This is one of the many youth prevention programs that is offered through the District, including providing mentorship opportunities for students and hosting the Police Athletic League at select schools for our students.