Philadelphia Student Union Fails to Hold Peers Accountable at Sayre

 by Christopher Paslay


I’m extremely disappointed with the Philadelphia Student Union.  They squandered a golden opportunity during their recent protest at Sayre High School to show the city that they truly value education and strive to hold each other accountable.         


I say this with all due respect, in light of the pleasant correspondence I had with the PSU earlier this week on Chalk and Talk.  But the PSU made all of us in the Philadelphia School District look foolish when they protested police instead of the unruly behavior of their peers.


The PSU missed the chance to highlight FIVE important student behaviors during their recent demonstration:


1.  The importance of coming to school on time.  The students who supposedly started the brawl at Sayre came to school almost two hours late.


2.  The importance of following the school dress code.  The Sayre students who came late allegedly started the brawl because they were turned away for not dressing properly.


3.  The importance of respecting police officers.  Two Sayre students were charged with assaulting a police officer during the brawl.


4.  The importance of respecting school teachers.  One Sayre student was charged with assaulting a school teacher during the brawl.


5.  The importance of respecting each other.  17 Sayre students were charged with disorderly conduct for fighting.      


The PSU was curiously mum on all five of these issues.  They did however protest the actions of Philadelphia police, the men and women called into the school to control the chaos started by unruly Sayre students.  Ironically enough, no formal complaint was ever filed against the police, nor was there any report of excessive force given to the principal or school officials.


And yet the PSU was there in force, waving their banners and shaking their fists, insisting Sayre students were unfairly labeled as trouble makers.  “We want people to know that we’re not animals, monsters and crack babies,” Candace Carter, a senior at Sayre said.  Who called anyone a “monster” or “crack baby”? 


After carefully pursuing their website, I’ve come to realize some of the PSU’s core beliefs contradict those of genuine proactive learners, and I find this troubling.  Despite the PSU’s record of peer tutoring and community service, members still subscribe to the notion that students are not ultimately responsible for their own educations.  They blame everything except the kitchen sink for their lack of academic success (teachers, schools, books, budgets, principals, politicians, etc), but nowhere in there mission and vision statements do they lay out the ways they can hold THEMSELVES accountable for learning; although I was highly impressed with the PSU earlier this week, a closer examination of the group makes me realize I was too quick to shower them with praise.


Motivation comes from within.  The PSU’s idea that a student’s yearning for knowledge is somehow “crushed out of them” by a failing system is dangerous.  In essence it is saying that it is okay to give up on school, that just because learning conditions aren’t up to par, teenagers are absolved of responsibility for their own schooling, and have the right to point fingers and place blame.


If students are going to be successful in Philadelphia public schools, we ALL must step up to the plate.  We ARE the system, and we must stop making excuses.

4 thoughts on “Philadelphia Student Union Fails to Hold Peers Accountable at Sayre

  1. I agree totally–this protest was misguided. The student union needs to set an example for their peers, not make excuses. The protest of the police was also done in poor taste. The PPD has their hands full these days, and being that there was no formal complaint filed (and no evidence of abuse), the PSU picked the wrong battle to fight.

  2. These children are just trying to do something positive. They are just trying their best to be agents of change at their school. You shouldn’t be so quick to judge them.

  3. The protest had nothing to do with being “agents of change”, but merely maintaining the cowardly status quo of students not accepting responsibility for their own actions. By failing to condemn the disruptive students for disrespecting their teachers, the police, peers, etc; not maintaining standards (i.e. dress codes, punctuality); the PSU wimped out instead of standing up for what is right. The troublemakers “stole” from their peers by failing to do their part. They chose to come in late and out of uniform. To make things worse they then tried to ignore the rules on entry to the school and had a temper tantrum when they didn’t get their way (a sign that their own parents are too gutless to enforce the rules). Unfortunately the police are made to look like they were the ones in the wrong. If the troublemakers had done what they were suppose to do at the start the police wouldn’t have even been in the picture. “Quick to judge” the PSU? They set themselves up for judgement when they decided to dis the police. Next time one of them gets jumped don’t call the police, call one of those hoodlums that are trying to take over our public schools. No wonder Philly public schools are in such trouble with this spineless mindset. The Philadelphia School District needs to come down hard and heavy every time something like this happens. If the parents are too lazy or cowardly to do their jobs teaching their own kids what is right or wrong then the school district will have to do it THEIR way. Avoid the conflict by doing the right thing at the start!

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