Teachers demand end to student violence

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Local public school teachers held up lists of issues compiled at a meeting of the Dorchester Educators, the county’s teachers’ union. Their demonstration took place at Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Education, at which teachers sought solutions to violence in schools.

SHILOH — “Forty-three attacks were reported” by October against teachers in Dorchester’s public schools, Vice President of Dorchester Educators Linda Barnes said Thursday. She was one of many speakers at Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Education, at which local teachers, wearing the red shirts of their union, demanded an end to violence in schools.

Those incidents did not include ones which were downgraded to disruptive behavior, she said, and the ones not reported at all. “And that’s in the first two months of school,” Ms. Barnes said.

“In March of 2019, I stood before you,” Ms. Barnes said, referring to a meeting attended by hundreds of teachers and parents, distressed by violent incidents in the public schools. “We are not moving forward.”

As the meeting, held at North Dorchester High School, got underway, several teachers rose and displayed large sheets of paper on which disciplinary issues had been listed at a previous gathering of the Dorchester Educators. “When we allow staff to be bullied, there is a problem,” Ms. Barnes said.

She told members of the board that middle school students she knows tell her they do not drink water during the day. “They are afraid to go to the bathroom,” where they could be attacked, she said. “They are entitled to feel safe in their school.”

Jason Theo Thomas teaches at Mace’s Lane Middle School. “Policy makers make it difficult for educators,” he said. He told them that the pressures put on the teachers and the lack of accountability expected from students are driving away teachers.
“I think it’s time for some of you to consider resigning,” he told the board members as many in the crowd applauded.

Kayla Rider was in tears, a reaction shared by others in the room, when she recounted her experiences being mocked as a teacher at Maple Elementary School. “Back in October, I got to the point where I tried to take my own life,” she said.

Theresa Stafford was a teacher for many years in the county. “I operate an after-school program in the middle of the projects,” she said, “but they don’t exhibit those behaviors in my program.”

She said she has asked to work with new teachers, but the job went to someone else. “Do you really want change?” she asked the board.

Board members President Glenn Bramble, Vice President Phil Rice, LeOtha Hull, Laura Layton and Sheri Hubbard listened to each speaker, with a time limit of three minutes. They made no immediate comment.