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Union representing Akron teachers raising concerns after board changes code of student behavior

Posted: 4:35 PM, Sep 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-25 23:04:31Z

The union representing Akron teachers is considering filing a grievance or an unfair labor practice complaint after the school board made changes to the code of student behavior without negotiating with the union.

"We don't believe there should be any changes to the student code of conduct unless they're negotiated," said Pat Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association. "We believe that the board does not have the right to unilaterally change the code without negotiations. They don't agree with that. They believe they can change the code."

Mark Williamson, a spokesperson for Akron Public Schools, said the district would not be commenting on the matter.

School Board President Patrick Bravo did not respond to messages seeking comment.

One code change adopted by the board separated "verbal abuse" from "verbal assault", giving abuse lesser consequences than assault.

Verbal assault is defined as any threatening language directed at a staff member. For violators, there is a requirement for a board hearing, a referral for a building transfer or expulsion.

Verbal abuse includes harsh, coarse or insulting words. Possible consequences include classroom or school behavioral interventions, suspension or recommendation for expulsion, but the word "required" does not appear in the language.

Shipe believes at least a one-day suspension should be required for verbal abuse.

"We do believe when a student uses vulgar, profane or abusive language toward a staff member, there has to be [a more serious] consequence for that," Shipe said.

In February, 22 grievances were filed by teachers . Many said they were physically or verbally assaulted by students in classrooms. A few days later, dozens of educators gathered outside the board of education building to protest the district's handling of student discipline.

Shipe said more verbal and physical assaults against teachers have been reported since classes resumed in August, including a student picking up a chair and hitting a teacher over the head with it at an elementary school.

Shipe said according to the contract between the board and AEA, physical assaults by students against teachers call for a mandatory recommendation for expulsion and removal to another building.

But the union president said that has not been happening in some of the recent incidents.

"Our biggest concern, however, is that the board agreed to follow that code of student behavior and they already this school year are not doing that in every case," she added.

Shipe said the school board is following up on an agreement, through a memorandum of understanding, to restore an expulsion committee which she called "a good thing."

However, she contends the board has violated other items outlined in the memo that was signed last May.