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Teachers’ union president: students are “maybe more violent than they have ever been”

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Carmen Ward, President of Alachua County Education Association (ACEA), spoke to the Alachua County School Board last night about the “crisis” of violence in the schools, saying that there have been 44 reports of violence against school district employees (with 1-3 attacks against adults per report) in 28 weeks of school. She said employees are “walking off the bus, walking out of the classroom, leaving their beloved career as educators because they don’t feel safe at work.”

Ward said that an increase in violent incidents in schools is one of the reasons why there is a shortage of instructional employees and bus drivers: “We have a discipline problem–not just in Alachua County. This is across the state. We have situations where schools are unsafe.”

She said the district has a good code of conduct, “but it needs to be enforced. We need to have zero tolerance for violence and support for students that are traumatized. We need enough places and enough ways to support students that are maybe more violent than they ever have been.”

She continued, “As adults, as educators, the most loving, kind thing we can do for students is to teach them that their behaviors have consequences and let them experience the consequences of their behaviors so that they don’t carry that on in their life after school… It is a crisis; we have a violence problem, and we want our schools to be safe, not only for the employees but for the students, because if there’s this much violence towards employees, there is also violence happening in schools towards other students, at even a greater level.”

ACEA’s recent survey of district employees attracted a number of comments about discipline, including:

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  • “We need strategies for students who cause daily mayhem.”
  • “Make students accountable for their actions.”
  • “Behavioral issues; not testing, testing, testing”
  • “New student discipline enforcement policies; adhering to those policies, even if they prompt bad press.”
  • “Stop worrying about the race of students who misbehave and treat all students equitably.”
  • “Better discipline. The students that don’t care about being in school should not take away from the students that want an education.”
  • “Student conduct expectations need to be set clearly. Students won’t respect the learning environment if we don’t.”
  • “Removing aggressive students from campus.”
  • “Be more consistent with discipline. Students getting out of hand.”
  • “Bringing back proper punishments for discipline.”
  • “Discipline procedures and policies, long-term consistency.”
  • “More suspensions.”

Many respondents simply wrote, “Better discipline.”

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