I-Team: Classrooms of Fear - Hopeless & Helpless - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Classrooms of Fear - Hopeless & Helpless

Posted: Updated: May 8, 2014 10:00 PM

More than a dozen teachers are ready to call it quits at just one local public school in East Baton Rouge Parish. Educators are saying the main reasons they're throwing in the towel are a lack of discipline and increasing violence inside the classrooms.

"It makes me wonder why I even got into this profession, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else," said a teacher we will call "Jane."

"If I see something better along the way, in the near future, I will be out of there," said another teacher we'll refer to as "Bob."

They're veteran teachers at their wits end with some of them simply dealing with the conditions trying to make it to retirement and in one case, literally counting the days until the end of the current school year so he can quit.

"I'm willing to risk going unemployed in order to leave this system," said a third teacher "Joe."

"Joe" is a rookie educator simply living out a dream to teach, but he has already had more than enough with the East Baton Rouge Public Schools.

Kiran: How long have you been with the school system?
Joe: This is my first year.
Kiran: ...and you're already ready to quit?
Joe: Absolutely. I turned in my letter.
Kiran: Why?
Joe: Because I am being asked to give grades that are not earned. I am afraid for my safety.

All three sat down with the I-team on the condition of concealing their identities, saying they fear retaliation.  When asked if the teachers had ever been verbally abused by a student in their classroom, all three answered, "Yes." All three also said they had been physically assaulted by a student in their class.

"Joe" is calling it quits saying instead of him grading students on how they should be graded, administrators are dictating what grades he needs to hand out.

"Told me it was my fault that he has a failing grade, and that I should give him a "C," said Joe.  "I was told that I had too many failing and not to fail their seniors."

When asked why, Joe said, "It looks bad on the school, and it goes against our school score."

Another teacher said those school performance scores take top priority and trump everything else.

"Well, when you talk about administrators, I think it's important to note that it comes from the top. It doesn't always come from our principals at our schools. They're handcuffed. They're puppets to Dr. Taylor, Dr. Ramos and Dr. Haggen," said Jane.

When the I-team asked Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor whether school statistics were more important than student performance, he walked off without answering the question.

Meanwhile, Jane said Dr. Taylor and his staff are giving the direction.

"They're the ones that call the shots, put the pressure on the principals, threaten their jobs and then we have faculty meetings that dictate to us what we have to do," said Jane.

Several teachers said they're told to try to keep students in the classrooms and reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions because that can affect the school's performance score.

The I-team examined East Baton Rouge school discipline numbers going back three years and found the numbers in line with what teachers tell us.

2011-2012 : 20,282
2012-2013: 17,660
2013-2014: 15,284.

2011-2012 :851
2012-2013: 581
2013-2014: 441

Dr. Taylor began as the EBR superintendent in the summer of 2012.

"It is never acceptable to have children to have students in a classroom that are bullying either other students or their teachers," said Governor Bobby Jindal.

The governor said Louisiana passed the Teacher's Bill of Rights to protect educators from their students.

Kiran: The teachers bill of rights, do you feel those mean anything for you?
Jane: You can take it to the bathroom with you.

When asked what if the Teacher's Bill of Rights are not enforced, Gov. Jindal said, "The local school districts have to enforce. This is a legal obligation, just like they have other obligations when they operate."

What the governor calls an obligation is nothing more than a piece of paper for some teachers.

Kiran: So the local administration is not protecting you guys through the Teacher's Bill of Rights?
Joe: Not to my knowledge, and not how I felt.

"They've got an obligation to provide this. They should not be in violation of this state law, and I'd encourage teachers if they're having concerns, to first contact their local school officials, and if that's not working, then go to the State Dept. of Education because there is a law on the books that was passed intentionally to make sure teachers don't face that kind of violence, that kind of bullying," said Gov. Jindal.

Dr. Taylor's office did not provide a comment for this report, but his staff did sit down with the teachers' union president earlier this week to come up with a plan on how to start reducing violence in the classrooms. If you're a teacher and feel the Teacher's Bill of Rights is not being enforced in your school, you can call the State Dept. of Education at 1-877-453-2721. They said they will make sure the locals uphold the rights.

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