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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Unsafe schools drive away teachers

Classroom violence is driving teachers to quit in Oregon’s Salem-Keizer school district, reports Christine Pitawanich for KGW-TV.

Despite experience as a special-education aide, Taylor Woosley found it impossible to control her class of third, fourth and fifth graders in her first year as a special-ed teacher, she told KGW.

She was pregnant at the start of the year. “I was getting threatened by students, ‘I’m going to hit you and I don’t care if your baby dies,’” said Woosley. “There was zero education going on, zero,” she said.

Teachers and aides suffered concussions, bites and bruises, the teacher said. After six weeks, she quit.

Deniel Hardin, a fourth-grade teacher, plans to leave at the end of the year, her first full year of teaching.

“My classroom has been destroyed multiple times. The window in my door got busted with my broom,” said Hardin. “There has been […] many staff that have gone to the doctor, two or three that I know of right now that have gone to the emergency room this year due to these kinds of behaviors,” she said. Hardin said students in her general education class have assaulted her twice.

Staff at Waldo Middle School wrote to the superintendent to plead for “counselors, behavior specialists and school security officers as well as consequences for students who misbehave,” reports Pitawanich.

New discipline policies are “taking away the tools that we had to respond to behavior,” said Jenny Maguire, a long-time staffer and a behavioral specialist for nine years. Students are learning their behavior has no consequences. She resigned in December.

Behavior is worse, compared to before the pandemic, but suspensions are down, said Iton Udosenata, the assistant superintendent. He credits “restorative practices,” such as talking to students who’ve misbehaved about how to make better decisions.  It’s “an exaggeration that we’re not holding kids accountable,” he said.

Teachers were told to protect themselves from being hit by holding a mat in front of them, said Woosley. She took a job in a smaller district, along with an $11,000 pay cut.

Daniel Buck (@MrDanielBuck), an English teacher and a Fordham fellow, asks:

Would most teachers take a job that pays $20,000 more or a position in a school that has well-functioning behavior systems? How much money is a lack of chaos worth?

He also suggests that for Teacher Appreciation Week, administrators “not send a kid back to class the same day he cussed out a teacher.”

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