‘Our schools are off limits’: Pittsburgh Public Schools creates new job to address, prevent violence

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PITTSBURGH — Imagine being an educator and mentoring a student one week, only to have to bury that same student the next week.

Jason Rivers, the newly announced director of Narrative Transformation, Conflict Resolution & Violence Prevention at Pittsburgh Public Schools, doesn’t have to imagine because he has lived it, and he said that experience will guide him in this new role.

“I lost a brother in 2008 as well as former students to gun violence,” said Rivers.

The position is a new role designed to not only address the violence in schools, but to prevent it and to change the narrative.

“I don’t come from a high horse. I live it out daily and I’ve seen not only the consequences, but I’ve seen the redemptive spirit of young people,” Rivers said.

A former student and long-time district employee, Rivers said his new role isn’t easy.

Violence spans across neighborhoods: from brawls outside Carrick High School shutting down local shopping plazas to businesses locking their doors during Alderdice’s arrival and dismissal to gunshots ringing out twice outside Westinghouse, injuring five students.

“Understand violence at its root causes and be preventative at the early stages before it ever gets to extreme moments such as that,” Rivers said.

Rivers said this work cannot be done alone and plans to partner with staff, community and students.

“We have to have a policy as a community at large that our schools are off limits for those sorts of things,” Rivers said.

With four weeks already under his belt, he has begun empowering PPS students to get involved in the conversation.

One of Rivers’ first initiatives is set for Thursday as students across the district celebrate their end of the of year symposium.

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