A recent ABC2 news report1 shed the light on an issue that most inner-city teachers are aware of, but few speak out about. That issue is teacher abuse. In the past 5 years, reports show that four BCPS school personnel are assaulted by BCPS students every single day. There have been noticeable increases in the number of teacher assaults in the last two years. Evidence shows that seventh, eighth, and ninth graders commit these assaults most often.
The 2008 attack on Jolita Berry2, an art teacher at Reginald F. Lewis (RFL) high school is what is brought to the forefront of most educators’ minds when they hear the words “teacher assault.” The brutal attack was captured on a cell phone and publicized on Myspace. When I was first assigned to work at RFL, I Googled the name and articles about the assault were the first thing to pop up. I was terrified.
Unsurprising to any BCPS teacher, in Berry's court case, “the defense made a presentation questioning Berry's teaching skills, noting that she was on a performance improvement plan (PIP) at the time of the incident and a hall monitor was assigned specifically to stand outside her classroom.” Last spring, our administration put almost every teacher on a PIP for not passing enough students.
Current BTU president, Marietta English states that teachers should not have to face physical and verbal assaults at work each day1; yet they do. Teachers at inner-city schools go to work knowing they will be cursed at, threatened, and possibly even assaulted by their students. Administration says cases of teacher assault are “completely unacceptable,” yet (in my opinion) they don't do anything to prevent them or to lower the incidence of these increasingly violent acts.
Karen Webber-Ndour is the Executive Director of the office of Student Support and Safety for BCPS. Her job is to change the perception, feel, and environment of a school in order to decrease violence. Her program has been piloted in 32 BCPS schools and so far, the results have been promising. Webber-Ndour claims there has been a drastic decrease in suspensions in that pilot group of schools, an increase in community and parental involvement1.
In order to decrease the number of teacher assaults and to better the culture and climate of City schools, we need more funding for programs like Karen Webber-Ndour’s and Professional Development for teachers on building better relationships with students. Students need to be held accountable for their actions. Incidents of students who attack teachers cannot be “swept under the rug.” Teachers should feel safe walking into their workplace. Teachers should never be threatened by or assaulted by students. If the system wants to retain high quality teachers, the system needs to change the way they view teacher assaults.