Violence against teachers committed by students, some as young as first graders, in one state capital city has reached such extreme levels that at least 45 educators have resigned from their positions during just a three-month period. Those who remain are “begging” the school board for help, looking for respite from the constant assaults.
As reported by the Daily Mail, the massive teacher exodus is taking place in three to four schools in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg Education Association (HEA) has confirmed that 45 teachers left their positions between July and October alone, and those that remain are demanding that the administration take a more active role in managing the problem.
“I have been kicked, punched, hit, scratched,” said Amanda Shaeffer, a first-grade teacher when speaking to board members. “I’ve had a student physically restraining me in front of my other students.”
Shaeffer also stated that “many of the personal things that I have brought for my classroom have been broken or destroyed.”
Along with approximately half a dozen other educators and several parents, Shaeffer is calling for a faster, tougher response to students who take such actions. They also want a coalition of administrators, teachers, and parents to be created to help address issues of school violence and improve the level of consistency of how incidents are handled, a move that Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney supports.
They’re also requesting access to better training and support, particularly for dealing with students who suffer from mental health issues or are experiencing abuse at home.
Jody Barksdale, the HEA President, is also calling on the board to act, saying, “We aren’t complaining. We are here begging for help so that we can help those students.”
Barksdale had previously sought assistance from the board in January but states that “not much” has been done since she made the request.
“Teachers and students are being hit, kicked, slapped, scratched, cussed at… and observing other students flip over tables, desks, and chairs,” said Barksdale. “Teachers have had to take the rest of their class into the hallway to protect them during these outbursts.”
In response, the school district has stated that it is “unfortunate that our teacher organization has chosen to engage in public discourse opposed to factual and substantive discussions.”
The district says 130 people, including 30 professional staff members, have been hired between April and August, but 38 vacancies remain “as a result of resignations due to a host of reasons and retirements.”
It also asserted that “the District is committed to promoting a safe and healthy work and learning environment for our faculty, staff, and students,” and that development and mentoring programs are currently available to teachers, and that it maintains an “open door policy” should staff members have concerns.
The district also added that its success “hinges on all stakeholders taking a positive and committed stance on moving the quality of education forward for every student; this includes professional responsibility, accountability and true ownership of the work.”