The Philadelphia Inquirer won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, considered to be the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for its extensive reporting last March and April on violence in the 146,000-student district. Through incident reports, public records and hundreds of interviews, the Inquirer team found that dozens of serious crimes had taken place on a daily basis from 2007 to 2011. The seven-part series was the only education-related project that won a Pulitzer this year.
One victim of an attack was profiled in the first part of the series:
For Teshada Herring, the action was unmistakable: The girls smearing Vaseline on their faces and fitting scarves to their heads were preparing for a fight. The ritual—well-known in Philadelphia schools—is intended to keep skin from scarring and hair from getting ripped out. As Teshada passed the group on her way to class at Audenried High that morning, the events of the previous week flashed through her mind - a fight she had witnessed, Facebook posts warning that someone from her neighborhood would be attacked, a text blast to her phone that all but named her as the intended victim. Minutes later, while taking an algebra test, Teshada was unable to stop thinking about the pack of girls. She glanced up from the test, looking at the classroom door. The girls in scarves passed by. Teshada was terrified; now she was sure they were coming for her. Suddenly, a band of more than a dozen girls and boys - captured on video roaming the halls and looking into classrooms - barged through the door. The group converged on Teshada and began to beat her. In less then a minute, they vanished. "It was like a tornado," her teacher would later say. "They went one way, then they went the other way."
The reporters’ findings were “later corroborated by a Philadelphia School District blue-ribbon panel on safety, spurred an overhaul of incident reporting in the district, and prompted the hiring of a state-funded safe-schools advocate,” the paper reported.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.