South Philly High Cuts Jobs Focusing on Student Safety

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Violet SuttonWhen South Philadelphia High School erupted into racial violence on December 3, community liaison Violet Sutton-Lawson was one of the few school staff members who actually did something — risking serious injury — to protect Asian students who were being beaten by mobs. Last week, she was laid off: South Philadelphia High aide who protected students from attack is laid off.

“I put my life in danger,” an angry, disbelieving Sutton-Lawson said in an interview. “They just laid me right off.”

Sutton-Lawson, who worked with pregnant students and teenage mothers, was bumped from her job by seniority rules, among 61 support staffers who were laid off to save money and consolidate duties.

Eleven community-relations jobs were eliminated, said spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates. But some of those employees had seniority that allowed them to displace other workers. Sutton-Lawson’s job at South Philadelphia High will be filled by one of those longer-tenured workers.

“It’s unfortunate,” Sample-Oates said. “Ms. Sutton-Lawson is welcome to apply for another position with the district.”

Sutton-Lawson earned about $36,000 a year, barely a decimal point in the $3.2 billion school budget but crucial to a woman who doesn’t own a car and lives in a tough area on Wharton Street.

Sutton-Lawson’s position was one of 61 jobs slashed from the payroll. Ironically, the job cuts have largely targeted employees who focus on student safety — 11 community-relations workers were 17 nonteaching assistants and 33 climate managers, who help keep schools calm.

They never even acknowledged her actions to protect students on December 3, but the school district was fine with sending her a layoff notice, no problem. And yet former South Philadelphia High School principal LaGreta Brown remains on the district’s payroll. How does any of this make sense?

(Image Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer)