I-Team: Classrooms of Fear

Published: Apr. 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 8:29 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some teachers say they're ready to call it quits all because of the way some of the children in their classrooms behave.

Two East Baton Rouge public school teachers sat down with the I-team on the condition that their identities remain concealed.

They say there are fights, physical and verbal threats to teachers and other students, and disruptive students keeping others from learning.  They add the violence in the classrooms is only getting worse.

With fights from the courtyard, gym and school bus, the teachers tell the I-team classrooms are not immune with disruptive students boldly threatening teachers.

"Stab you in your throat," said a student to one of the teachers interviewed.

"It's gotten to the point where you just show up everyday mentally preparing to be disrespected and cursed out by kids. Kids who you would never think would do it, are now. It's just common place because so many are doing it and they're seeing that they can get away with it, and the kids know it and they'll tell you they do it because they know nothing's going to happen to them.," said a teacher.

When asked what kind of words they're listening to in the classrooms, "F*** you b***h, get the f**k out of my face, leave me the f**k alone, stupid b***h, you got me f**ked up," responded the teachers.

Louisiana has a Teacher's Bill of Rights.  It should be given to every teacher and a copy posted in a prominent place in every school.  Some of those include the right to appropriately discipline students, the right to remove any persistently disruptive student especially when it impacts other children, the right to a safe, secure and orderly environment and the right to be treated with civility and respect.   

"We were told that when a student curses you out, that that's a major infraction. You write the referral and they would be suspended. However, they're coming back apologizing, 'I'm sorry,' and the paperwork will have counseled," said a teacher.

According to the East Baton Rouge School System's Discipline policy, a disruptive student is to be removed from class and sent to the principal's office.  The child is not allowed back in to class until the principal has taken one of the following measures:

a) in-school suspension
b) detention
c) suspension
d) initiation of expulsion hearings
e) assignment to an alternative school
f) requiring the completion of all assigned school and homework
g) any other disciplinary measure authorized by the principal

The options teachers tell us principals seem to prefer are counseling or behavior clinic.

When asked if that counseling helps, one teacher responded, "Oh no, because now when you send them another child, 'Oh, they just gonna talk to me and send me back'."

"Yes, this is the worst I've seen the discipline in the classroom," said president of the local Federation of Teachers union Carnell Washington.

Washington said when teachers go to the administration, He said several EBR public teachers have been reaching out to him feeling hopeless like their hands are tied and in some cases, he said administrators put it back on the teachers that they don't know how to manage their own classrooms.  Washington said the overwhelming response from instructors is, "I just want to teach. That's what they want, and in my many instances, they can't do that because of disruptive students."

The union recently surveyed 318 EBR public school teachers about the problems.  

The survey revealed that 60 percent of teachers say they have experienced an increase in violence or threats from students and 41 percent saying they do not feel safe at work.  A third of all instructors said they have been physically assaulted by a student while two thirds said they have verbally been abused.  

"I'm actually thinking about a career change.  I just don't know what," said a teacher.

Sixty-one percent agree, saying they've considered leaving.  Washington said he's sat down twice with EBR Deputy Superintendent Michael Haggen on the results of the survey.  He added he's also spoken with Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor on the matter.

"His thing was, well Carnell, 'I don't get those calls.'  No you don't get those calls. I get those calls.  I'm the local union so I get those calls," said Washington.

The I-team asked to interview both Dr. Taylor and Michael Haggen, but we got no response, so we went to a recent forum to find the superintendent.

"You know what, we hear that all the time and if teachers and administrators and parents work collectively when there are incidents of violence, and those don't involve all students so let's be clear too," said Dr. Taylor. "How about 95 percent of students go to school everyday without incident. The question I want to ask you is why are you so preoccupied with the small percentage who don't.  We're talking about a small percentage of students who create issues that need to be resolved."

"Those issues are creating more than 60 percent of teachers who want to quit according to a survey that came out because of the violence," said WAFB's Kiran Chawla.

"No one has provided anything about 60 percent of anything," said Dr. Taylor.

We tried to show him the survey but Dr. Taylor would not pause from talking. So instead, we started talking over each.  We pointed out the survey results showing that  61 percent of teachers want to quit.

"That's an alarming number," said Chawla.

"No, no, I'm not sure it's an alarm because again, I don't know what the basis of this is. I've never seen it. No one has ever given it to me," said Dr. Taylor.

"Your deputy superintendent has seen the results of this survey," said Chawla.

"Well again, that's the deputy superintendent. What I'm saying is..." said Dr. Taylor.

"Are you not over him?" asked Chawla.

Without answering our question, Dr. Taylor walked off.

The teachers tell us administrators are worried more about statistics, saying suspensions and expulsions do not help the school performance scores. but that keeping children in the classrooms, does.

"It's almost like it's a competition.  Which school has the fewest amount of suspensions, expulsions and they want them to have it at a certain percentage so I'm assuming that's why a lot of stuff just gets overlooked. A lot of stuff these kids are doing, they're not being suspended for because they're more concerned about numbers," said a teacher.
"Because your discipline goes into your school performance score," added the other teacher.  "They're telling us when you suspend them, they can't learn when they are out of school but when they're there, they're not learning nor are any of the other kids learning."

Dr. Taylor did not want to talk about that either.

"There are some teachers who also tell us that statistics are more important to administrators than student performance. Any response to that?  Are statistics more important than student performance?" asked Chawla.

Dr. Taylor continued walking out of the door without answering.

The I-team asked Baton Rouge Police and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office how many times they have been called out to EBR public schools. Since January 2013, BRPD has had 18 different cases involving students and guns, aggravated assaults, terrorizing and 2nd degree battery.  EBRSO  is still working to get us numbers.

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.