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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

AFT, NEA play politics with teacher safety

Michelle Pfeiffer played an ex-Marine turned teacher of low-achieving students in the 1995 movie Dangerous Minds.

Teachers across the country are complaining that new, softer discipline policies aren’t working, writes Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in The 74. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering withdrawing the federal letter that pushed schools to limit suspensions and stress “restorative justice.” Why do teachers’ unions defend the federal directive when their own members say it leaves them unsafe in their classrooms? he asks.

Eden looks at districts where unions have have asked their members about new discipline policies. “Teachers say schools are deteriorating and that they don’t feel safe,” he writes.

In Oklahoma City, 60 percent of teachers say offending behavior increased since the letter came out (11 percent say it decreased). In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 60 percent say they’ve experienced an increase in violence or threats and 41 percent say they don’t feel safe at work. In Portland, Oregon, 34 percent of teachers say their school is unsafe. In Jackson, Mississippi, 65 percent say their school “feels out of control” on a daily or weekly basis. In Denver, 32 percent of teachers say discipline issues have hurt their personal safety and 60 percent say it has hurt their mental health. In Syracuse, New York, 36 percent of teachers say they have been physically assaulted, 57 percent say they’ve been threatened, and 66 percent say they fear for their safety at school.

Teachers say “progressive” or “positive” or “restorative” practices are ineffective in Santa Ana, California, in Hillsborough, Florida, and in Jackson, Eden reports. “Nationwide, teachers oppose the school discipline “Dear Colleague” letter about 3-to-1, he estimates.

On Facebook, a New York City teacher posted about being assaulted by a student who’d previously threatened the teacher with impunity. “I’m now bruised all over and in horrible pain,” the teacher wrote.  “Now that I’ve pressed charges, do I have a right to request that the student be removed from my classroom?”

Bakersfield (California) teachers blame new discipline policies for a rise in student misbehavior and violence, including assaults on teachers.

“More than 10,000 city school employees, from custodians to principals, and about half of them teachers, were assaulted or threatened by students last school year,” reports the New York Post. Incident reports increased by 4.5 percent from the previous year. School staffers also reported more incidents involving “altercations,” “physically aggressive behavior” and “inflicting serious injury.”

“Broward Schools have grown so tolerant of misbehavior that students like Nikolas Cruz are able to slide by for years without strict punishment for conduct that could be criminal,” reports the Sun-Sentinel.

The culture of leniency allows children to engage in an endless loop of violations and second chances, creating a system where kids who commit the same offense for the 10th time may be treated like it’s the first, according to records and interviews with people familiar with the process.

The district’s statistics are “deceiving.”

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