A swath of public school teachers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, have resigned one after the other in the past few months because their students became too violent to handle, a teachers association says.
The growing number of incidents in the district prompted at least 45 teachers to resign this year between July and October, according to the Harrisburg Education Association, Fox43 reports.
Amanda Sheaffer, a first-grade teacher in the district, told Penn Live about her experiences in the classroom.
“I have been kicked, punched, hit, scratched. I’ve had a student physically restraining me in front of my other students. … And many of the personal things that I have bought for my classroom have been broken or destroyed,” she said.
“How am I meeting my students’ needs with this behavior happening? How am I supposed to have a safe, nurturing learning environment when this behavior happens?”
According to the Harrisburg Education Association’s president, Jody Barksdale, more resignations are likely to occur. She also said that some of the worst behavior reports have come from the district’s youngest students, Fox43 reported.
Sheaffer, who has four years of experience working in the district, said the violent incidents interrupt her teaching because they require her to clear the room, call security, and write a report.
Despite the daily challenges, however, Sheaffer said she won’t resign.
“I try to see the good and think that these students and kids need me, and I’m trying to do something positive and different,” Sheaffer told Fox43.
Complaints of violence have occurred mostly in three or four schools, the association says, but has not said which ones.
However, Penn Live said most of the teachers and parents who attended a school board meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, to talk about violence in the classroom were from Melrose and Downey elementary schools.
More support is needed in order to resolve these issues, they say.
“Let’s get together, as a task force, as a community, teachers, principals, and see what we can put together to actually help these children that are displaying these atypical behaviors,” Barksdale told Fox43.
The school district responded with the following statement to Fox43:
“In response to the Harrisburg School District’s Collective Bargaining Group, and earlier statements made to the media concerning issues facing our District, we find it unfortunate that our teacher organization has chosen to engage in public discourse opposed to factual and substantive discussions. The District is committed to promoting a safe and healthy work and learning environment for our faculty, staff and students. As we all can agree, student achievement is our
primary mission. …
“Further, the District has an open door policy to advance communication and address any and all concerns from administrators, faculty, staff and/or students.
“As a School District, our effectiveness and success hinges on all stakeholders taking a positive and committed stance on moving the quality of education forward for every student; this includes professional responsibility, accountability and true ownership of the work that puts students first and continues to move our District in the direction of academic growth and achievement. As a District, we will continue to strive to overcome isolated challenges and resolve differences. Furthermore, we endeavor to build a culture of collaboration among all stakeholders that is focused on improving teaching and learning in every school throughout the District.”
District Superintendent, Sybil Knight-Burney, said the district understands that there is a “different type of support that is needed,” Fox43 reported.
She said the school district will work with teachers to tackle the violence at its root.
“Once we meet and find out that there are needs that we need to have serviced, that means it’s going to take parent involvement to make that happen,” Knight-Burney said.
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