AKRON, Ohio — Teachers at Akron Public Schools said they’re fed up with an increase in violence and inappropriate behaviors from students in school buildings this year.
The Akron Education Association said those outbursts have injured teachers and caused major disruptions in learning. Now, they’re demanding action from the school board and district administrators to stop the chaos and restore peace.
Pat Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association, said teachers are dealing with “loaded weapons being brought into the buildings, facsimile weapons, knives, bomb threats, fighting, a total disrespect and profane reactions to our teachers."
Shipe said those inappropriate behaviors have only increased since students returned to in-person classes this school year, resulting in horrific consequences for some teachers caught in the crossfire.
“We had an administrator that had a dislocated shoulder from a student,” said Shipe. “We had a pregnant teacher that ended up in the hospital for 48 hours with complications from being punched in the stomach. That's not acceptable in any way, shape, or form.”
She believes the pandemic has played a role in some of those behaviors, but it’s not the only factor.
“It’s a multi-layered problem. It's a societal problem,” said Shipe.
Those instances of violence and disruption are why the union’s board of trustees unanimously passed a “no confidence” resolution in the district’s Office of Student Support Services and Security last month.
Shipe believes the office isn’t following protocol when it comes to disciplining students.
“They're violating our contract and they're violating the code of student behavior. And that has been an ongoing issue since 2018,” said Shipe.
That year, a group of Akron teachers held the “Safe Schools Rally” after multiple complaints of how the district handled discipline after assaults, including an incident in 2017 where an English teacher at East High School was body-slammed by a 15-year-old student.
Shipe said now teachers are in the same place as they were then, if not worse.
“We can think of very few professions in this world that their employees are told to come to work and take the abuse and the physical assaults and just deal with it,” said Shipe. “There has to be a concerted ongoing effort by many people sitting at the table and saying, ‘This is not acceptable. How can we start to improve this situation?’”
She said it starts with the union and administrators coming up with short-term and long-term solutions to address the violence.
“We have resources and alternative educational settings in this district where those students can go and not only continue their education, but they can get the help that they need through counseling, through wraparound services. If their families need resources, those should be available to, again, turn that behavior around so it doesn't repeat itself,” said Shipe.
So far, Shipe said the superintendent has already made some temporary changes like increased staff and security in certain buildings. She said the superintendent also sent a letter home last week to families informing them that the district would be increasing enforcement and consequences for those who violate the student code of conduct.
Shipe said after that letter was sent out, instances of violent behavior in schools increased, including an incident at Kenmore-Garfield High School where a teacher’s nose was broken.
News 5 reached out to Akron Public Schools about the resolution passed by AEA; Mark Williamson, the district’s director of marketing communications said in a statement: “We share some of the same concerns and continue to work through them with the AEA."
As for next steps, Shipe told News 5 she had a meeting scheduled with the superintendent later Tuesday, and union leaders are set to meet with district administrators next Thursday.
She also wants to see families and community members get involved.
“Teachers need your support, and reach out to a teacher. They are dealing with the return to the pandemic, the recovery of education, student behaviors, and they have their own family and lives and sometimes we forget that,” said Shipe.
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