Akron teachers threaten strike over school safety
"We as educators are being asked to accept more and more violent language, violent assaults, violent behaviors from our students and we have had enough," said Pat Shipe, president of the Akron Education Association union, in giving the district notice of a Jan. 9 strike. "We have had weapons on a regular basis, we have had stabbings in our school, we have violent fights breaking out almost on a daily basis in our school we have teacher assaults occurring."
School safety is a major issue for union members, reports Katie Byard Carney in the Akron Beacon Journal. Teachers object to the district's proposal to define "assault" as contact that leads to "injury."
A union news release charged that Akron Public Schools cannot fill 20 percent of teaching positions due to school safety and security concerns and low wages.
"It can't just be a violent game of Whack-a-Mole," said Lisa Yanchek, a sixth-grade teacher in December. "Teachers have expressed frustration and fear over assaults against them as well as a recent string of high-profile violent or concerning incidents at different schools, writes Bob Jones of News 5.
A loaded gun was found inside a seventh-grader's backpack in December, Jones writes. A month earlier, a student was stabbed at his high school. Fights -- recorded by cell phone videos -- have broken up at a number of schools.
Schools across the country reported violence and disorder this fall.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, dozens of teachers walked out of their classrooms to protest school violence in early December, reports Joe Ripley of WSB-TV. "One teacher was assaulted and others have been hurt trying to break up fights in the last week." Dr. Frances Davis, a former administrator, said the district is "losing teachers every single day because they’re afraid to be in the classroom, to be in the schools, because they don’t have the local authority to do what they need to do.”
She blamed the school board's restorative practice policy which "aims to give students more leeway when they violate"rules, reports Ripley.
At the end of the month, Gwinnett Superintendent Calvin Watts announced a "pause" on the restorative practices mandate to provide more time to train teaches.
In a September, 2022 survey, 10 percent of teachers said they'd been attacked by a student. In another survey, a majority of teachers reported physical or verbal aggression by students.