Student protesters shut down Philly school board meeting over metal detector vote

Philadelphia Student Union plans another protest at the City Council meeting on May 14.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Protesters shut down tonight’s Philadelphia Board of Education meeting after board members voted 7-2 to make metal detectors and X-ray machines mandatory in every District high school.

Philadelphia Student Union executive director Julien Terrell and about 60 students and faculty who called for a “no” vote on the policy stormed the front of the school board auditorium, denouncing the board, which has been in existence less than a year.

“We do not recognize the legitimacy of this board anymore,” shouted Terrell. He listed alleged cases of malfeasance in the District under Superintendent William Hite, including the alleged assault of two students by school police officers.

“We are not talking about conversations,” shouted Terrell. “We’re not talking about officers being nice. We are talking about the everyday traumatization of students.”

Terrell continued to speak to an audience of supporters and some District staff. When Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson threatened to have Terrell removed, he reacted in defiance.

“There’s not enough of you all to remove us,” he shouted. “And I f–king dare! I dare you to come and remove us!”

The board then called a recess.

Once the board members left, members of the Caucus of Working Educators, a group of progressive teachers, took over the board’s semi-circle desk, holding up banners and signs, and conducted a meeting of the “People’s Philadelphia School Board,” where teachers and students delivered testimony.

Students and faculty campaigned against the policy in the weeks leading up to the vote, saying that it criminalized students. The policy essentially targeted three schools that don’t use metal detectors: two Science Leadership Academy campuses and the Workshop School.