By Ariela Loshi and Hala Alhuraibi
We are students in the School District of Philadelphia. Being the constituents of Rep. Neilson, we decided to look into his actions in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and share our input.
We appreciate Neilson’s efforts to make school environments safer, both physically and emotionally. We see that he sponsored HB1825 for providing more school counseling services and feel that this is necessary. We also recognize that he sponsored HB102, providing for counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and other health services in school. As students, we see the faults of public school systems first-hand and believe that the lack of physical and mental health services are some of the most prominent ones. We suggest that he look further into school infrastructure safety, such as funding for school renovations and indoor climate control. Public school students attend school in a building where their ceiling tiles fall in front of their feet on their way to class, or in which the temperature of their classrooms is not conducive for learning, both things we have experienced ourselves. There is a need for stricter requirements for building upkeep. We admire Neilson’s dedication to this issue and hope he takes our suggestions into thought.
Along with the in-school measures he has made, we have taken note of Neilson’s effort to make the school commute safer for students. We appreciate the legislation he has introduced, such as HB2276 that would expand speed traffic cameras in Philadelphia school zones. Data proves that this legislation is effective as collisions have significantly decreased since the introduction of the automated traffic camera program on Roosevelt Boulevard. We are happy to see that Neilson considers students’ safety of utmost importance.
Additionally, the presence of gun violence all throughout Philadelphia, including District 174, has grown to be an increasingly alarming issue over the past years. We have seen innumerable shootings incredibly close to home, people dying of gunshots and immense fear in Philadelphia residents. Homicide records are being surpassed each year. Shootings have been occurring too close to school grounds for comfort. Just recently, the shooting involving a sanitation worker in Northeast Philadelphia caused Abraham Lincoln High School and the Austin Meehan Middle School building to go on lockdown. Events like these are very personal to residents of the Northeast. Fearing for the livelihood of family and friends due to the threat of gun violence, attending school as there is an active crime scene around the corner as the students at Willard Elementary had, and spectating a local sports game with the risk of a shooting should not become the new normal. Situations like these have been occurring incredibly often, and we
believe that action must be taken to restrict the use of guns to ensure the safety of Pennsylvanians.
In regards to gun violence, Neilson has sponsored bills like HB2275 that have provided for a gun violence task force and restricted the use of firearms, and Resolution 604, which declared gun violence as a social epidemic and condemned the National Rifle Association’s rhetoric. However, we do not believe enough is being done to prevent homicides and shootings in the Philadelphia area. Simply acknowledging the issue is not enough. We need real action and real legislation. We would like for Rep. Neilson to shift more focus to this issue to advocate for the lives and security of all Pennsylvanians. ••
Ariela Loshi and Hala Alhuraibi are students at Masterman High School.