Several students sit around a conference table at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia on a surly winter’s day, the kind that makes even the school’s drafty classrooms seem welcoming. They are there to give their assessment of the school – and they’re not afraid to be blunt.
“I like this school, but I kind of don’t,” says Chynah Perry, age 15, a thin girl with straight posture and stylish black-rimmed glasses. “It’s strict. Real strict.”
Quaseem Foxwell, a linebacker on the football team, says several of his friends left the school because of the tough rules. Yet he defends the strictures. He says he improved his own behavior after a heart-to-heart with his teachers and administrators. “When I came here and got into a fight, they told me I could get kicked out, or I could talk to the teachers and some of the deans,” he says. “The strict rules are all for a reason.”