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Old 04-10-2008, 09:07 PM   #1
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Teacher Beating Leads To Calls To Address Classroom Violence

School violence appalls officials

By Sara Neufeld
Baltimore Sun, April 10

The trouble began, Jolita Berry said, when she asked a girl in one of her art classes at Reginald F. Lewis High School to sit down. The student did not obey, coming closer to confront the teacher. "She said she's gonna bang me," Berry said. "I said, 'Back up, you're in my space. If you hit me, I'm gonna defend myself.'"

But Berry, who is 30 and started her job teaching art at the Northeast Baltimore school in December, did not defend herself. The girl caught the teacher off guard as other students cheered her on and screamed, "Hit her!" "She just started beating on me relentlessly," Berry said, recalling the Friday morning incident that left her with a sore shoulder and a broken blood vessel in her eye.

As it turned out, one of the kids in the class was recording what happened on a cell phone. Video footage was posted on the social networking site MySpace and aired on local television news, showing a teenage girl hitting a woman lying on the floor.

...By yesterday, the head of the Baltimore Teachers Union and Mayor Sheila Dixon were pointing to the incident in calling for the city school system to dedicate more resources to reducing classroom violence. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick told WBAL Radio that she was "horrified" and said that increased character education, community partnerships and parental responsibility are needed.

...[Teachers Union president Marietta] English said her office has been receiving two or three complaints a day of assaults on teachers, many of which are not reported to the school system or police. The system says it has expelled students for assaults on staff members 112 times this school year, compared with 98 at this time last year. [Another article from the Sun mentions that there were about 500 assaults on teachers and staff in Baltimore schools last year. --y.] In response to English's complaints, Gen. Bennie E. Williams, chief of staff to schools chief Andres Alonso, agreed a few weeks ago to convene a task force on teacher assaults. Its first meeting was scheduled for yesterday.

...Part of the public outrage stemmed from how Berry said her principal responded to the incident. She said the principal told her she'd provoked the attack by telling the student she would defend herself. "That principal might need to be disciplined because no teacher should be disrespected in the classroom," Dixon said at a morning news conference. While teachers also have to respect students, the mayor said, the principal's response "is unfair to that teacher." Berry said that she was also frustrated that the principal did not remove the student from the school immediately. As she left the school Friday to go to a medical clinic, Berry said, she had to pass by the girl, bragging to her friends about what she'd done. The principal, Jean Ragin, did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages yesterday.

...The teachers union has long asserted that city school administrators aren't reporting violent incidents or doing enough to punish children who are violent, for fear their schools will be labeled "persistently dangerous" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Maryland defines a "persistently dangerous" school as one with a certain percentage of its student population suspended for violent offenses. Critics say that that discourages suspensions and makes violence worse because students see they can get away with it.

Social networking sites like MySpace and the video-sharing site YouTube, along with the prevalence of cell phones with video cameras, have made school violence and other inappropriate behavior easier to document. YouTube contains footage of boys fighting in the bathroom at Thurgood Marshall High and students at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High trying to throw a girl out of a window. Berry said one of her friends found the video of her assault on MySpace, and her union representatives urged her to bring it to the news media's attention.

Since becoming CEO of the city schools last summer, Alonso has encouraged principals to look at alternatives to suspension for nonviolent offenses, but urged zero tolerance for violence. Some educators say his directive has been misinterpreted, with principals discouraging all suspensions. Alonso has said he will fire any administrator who does not honestly report school violence.

...At a school board meeting last month, English complained to Alonso and the board about teacher assaults. "You will not have good test scores...as long as these students are allowed to run the halls, come back to the classroom and continue to act in a violent way," she said. She asked for a meeting to discuss "strategies to help students who need some kind of support because obviously they're crying out for help," a request that led to the formation of the task force.
I found that number of assaults shocking. I'm guessing at least some of those are verbal threats, but still...

What can schools do to better prepare teachers to address situations like this?

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Old 04-11-2008, 05:32 AM   #2
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I'm not a teacher but I am doing my teacher training (6 more weeks to go ) so my experience of this is rather limited. This year we've heard a lot of stories like this. They only tell us that this is something that could happen and to be aware of it. Although they've never told us what to do in the situation. Many folk have asked for classes about how to restrain a violent or aggressive pupil but the University have said that the course is fine as it is.

The last school I was in was a nightmare. There was plenty of verbal abuse - swearing, threats, etc. I had an 11 year old throw something in my face one day and threaten to slap me various other times. I was mostly intimidated getting the bus home because they loved to follow teachers. There was one kid who almost hit me in the back of the head one day. I was pretty anxious about bumping into his gang at the bus stop.

Sadly, there were a lot of kids who had problems but I felt the main issue was the lack of discipline at the top of the school. Some of the kids just had an attitude and knew it was okay to be cheeky because they could get away with it. My supervisor witnessed some of the behaviour in one of the classes and she told me to threaten them with a trip to a senior member of staff but there was no point as they weren't going to punish them. I think if a school wants to reduce the risk of this happening they have to have a good team who enforce the rules and who back up other members of staff. I really think teachers need to be prepared in a scenario like this but it is something that has never been mentioned at both the schools I've been in. At the last place my department were very nice and would offer to put people in detention but they admitted it would do very little good because the kids knew that if they were sent to someone more senior nothing would happen.

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Old 04-11-2008, 07:00 AM   #3
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I have little desire to teach in the Mainland U.S.

Definitely not in the public schools.
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:52 PM   #4
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That is all.
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:41 PM   #5
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it seems to me the student

wanted this to happen so it could be posted on the internet

I can think of two other recent stories where teen agers beat others
while their friends were recording

and it was up on the net, in a flash
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Old 04-11-2008, 04:22 PM   #6
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Originally posted by deep
It seems to me the student wanted this to happen so it could be posted on the Internet.

I can think of two other recent stories where teenagers beat others while their friends were recording and it was up on the Net in a flash.
I'm inclined to agree here. A lot of these incidents are provoked with the express intention of posting it online. It's quite sad, actually.

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Old 04-11-2008, 08:20 PM   #7
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That may be true of that particular incident and some others, but that can't be the whole explanation for 500 teacher/staff assaults per year in one urban school system. Really I was more wondering what schools can do and are doing to prepare teachers to handle these kinds of incidents--that's got to be hard on both teacher and student morale for such situations to be that pervasive, I'd think.

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