Like many urban cities, Pittsburgh’s schools tend to have a bad reputation among outside families and teachers who view them as unsafe. This perception is said to be a contributing factor in the Pittsburgh Public School district’s decline in enrollment of 4,000 students over the last six years.

On Aug. 29, the Pittsburgh Public School district announced a new initiative being launched for the 2011-2012 school year to change this perception by reducing violence in schools and among students throughout the city. The district has chosen seven teachers to serve as learning environment specialists at seven “high needs” schools.

TOGETHER FOR PEACE—From left: Nina Esposito-Visgitis, John Tarka, Superintendent Linda Lane, at podium, and Tim Stevens stand with supporters of the community, teachers and district’s partnership initiative. (Photo by Kenneth Miller)

The seven teachers will be based at Langley High School, Oliver High School, Brashear High School, Perry High School, the Academy at Westinghouse, Faison K-8 and King K-8. They will work with schools throughout the district to address issues such as conflict resolution and bullying.

Acting as advisors for the new initiative will be members of the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Coalition Against Violence. Their document, outlines anti-violence strategies for a variety of institutions including school districts.

“We’ve been working off and on for the last three years. My hope is with the collaborative effort that we would like to one day see Pittsburgh become one of the safest public school systems in the nation,” said Tim Stevens, B-PEP chairman and co-convener of CAV. “This goal of reducing violence in school won’t happen without the leadership of the superintendent, the school board, and the teachers union.”

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