AKRON, Ohio — Tensions were high at the Akron Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday evening.
The meeting lasted four hours and, for the most part, there was one thing on the mind of board members, community members and administrators: school violence. News 5 has reported on school violence in the district, which has seemed to escalate over the past few months.
Akron board members voted to approve around $3 million dollars in funding for an overhaul of their school's security systems, including new metal detectors, an upgraded camera system, bag scanners and door alarms.
The board meeting room was packed with teachers and parents, overflowing into the hallway.
Teachers told board members what their current reality at work is.
“I worry will today be the day in which I become a statistic? The day in which my students become a statistic?,” asked a Firestone High School teacher. “This is no way to work. This is no way to live. Your teachers are exhausted. We need you to take action now because we do not believe we are being heard. Please listen to your teachers.”
Another teacher added there’s a lack of consequences or discipline for the small percentage of students causing issues for the majority of students.
“On any given day I may be asked ‘what the f are you looking at?’ or told ‘there is nothing you can do to me,’ and they’re largely correct,” she said. “Given the lack of meaningful consequences, these behaviors are growing. When we are accused by this administration that we don’t know our students or the challenges they face it is demoralizing and exhausting.”
Parents voiced support for the teachers and added that their children are scared to go to school.
“My child, an APS student has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression,” said one parent.
One parent received a standing ovation from the crowd after her impassioned plea.
“I am telling you tonight that they [teachers] should strike and I am in full support of their actions,” she said. “Stop allowing this administration to pretend everything is under control, it is not. Our children and families and communities are watching you.”
Board members had a chance to respond.
“I share your concerns. I’m with you. This is my life. These are my kids, too,” said board member Job Perry.
Board member Carla Jackson asked for teachers and parents to reach out to her for more information.
“If it’s a policy in place, where is the resistance that the policy is not being enforced and does that tie into the discipline?” she asked. “I’m deeply concerned.”
After public comment, school administrators detailed a new and improved security system proposal.
It included 61 new metal detectors that will go into 17 APS middle and high schools. The new detectors would create a more efficient way for students to be scanned for weapons.
The new technology also includes replacing the surveillance camera system. Stephen Thompson, Akron Public Schools Chief Operating Officer, said the current system is failing. He said the replacement of the cameras across the district will take about a year to implement.
Thompson also asked for the installation of 23 bag scanners in 17 APS middle and high schools and an alarm system on all doors.
In the end, the board approved the funding needed for the security changes.
Akron Public Schools are also increasing safety team staffing to 50 full-time and 13 part-time officers and adjusting traffic flow and staggering bell schedules to reduce hallway traffic.
Watch live and local news any time:
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.