Rising School Violence, Behavioral Issues Frustrated Alachua County Teachers and Parents


An uptick in student behavior issues in Alachua County schools has left parents and teachers frustrated with disciplinary policies and contributed to teacher turnover, education officials say.

Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association, said 90% of teacher quits last year were due to student behavior issues.

Alachua County Public Schools currently has 64 classroom vacancies less than a month into the school year, though it’s unclear how many are tied to resignations due to political debates.

“For a positive learning environment to occur, there must be positive behaviors in this classroom,” Ward said. “If teachers are not supported, supported, when they have a disruptive student in their class or multiple disruptive students, and very egregious behaviors are overlooked by administrators…teachers are frustrated that they are not benefiting from support for them.”

Ward said there have been several instances where teachers have been attacked by students and felt the behavior was largely uncontrolled and unruly.

“There was a teacher who was punched in the nose and the student was suspended and then returned to school,” Ward said. “And the teachers had to work every day and be around a child that she had to file a complaint against.”

It’s not just in the classroom. Bus drivers and administrative staff also face violence, she added.

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The issue may be related to the district’s equity plan that was introduced in 2017-18, which aimed to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions for black students. Some have argued that the plan prevents schools from disciplining students fairly to even out the stats.

Since 2016, the district has reduced its suspensions for black students from 1,564 to 526, and there has also been a reduction in the number of white students who have been suspended.

Although some of these statistics took place during the pandemic, classroom violence increased last year, resulting in 3,212 suspensions for black students.

Anntwanique Edwards, the district’s equity chief, said the district never told teachers not to discipline black students because they might have a higher suspension rate.

“What they said is you have to look at those numbers and see what you’re doing,” Edwards said. “Some people may interpret that as, ‘Oh, so don’t give them any consequence. The interpretation should be that we need to investigate why this is happening on our campus. What should these consequences be? Do they have to be different from what we gave, something other than suspension out of school?

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Either way, teachers don’t seem clear on how to approach the problem.

Jordan Marlowe, a teacher at Newberry High School, acknowledged that there is a perception among deans and administrators that teachers are told to monitor the number of behavioral references that are written for black students.

“I couldn’t put anywhere in writing where it was told to me and it was never told to me, but that’s the perception of what’s going on,” said Marlowe, who is also the mayor. by Newberry.

At a recent school board meeting, Edwards presented a behavior plan to board members, citing defiance and disrespect as top concerns.

Edwards also said that of the approximately 29,000 students attending the district school, about 6,262 have received one recommendation, while 4,163 have received more than five.

“The reality is that the majority of children are doing very well. There are a small number of children who constantly find problems and that’s where we need to provide support,” Edwards said.

Parents intervene on the issue of discipline

Jyoti Parmer is a member of the Alachua County Parent Teacher Association and a mother of a student who attends Eastside High School.

She said her son was affected by misbehavior at school and admits he misbehaved.

“We had to talk to him about his behavior and his response was, ‘Well, you should see what the other kids are doing,'” she said. “For me, that’s a problem, because we really have to control what’s tolerable, what’s acceptable and what’s preferred.”

Like many parents, Parmer heard stories of excessive bullying, backlash at teachers, and fights, with little punishment.

Alachua County parent Crystal Welcome says she pulled her daughter out of district schools because the bullying was so bad.

She said her daughter, who now attends Einstein School, attended Hidden Oak Elementary School where there was an incident where another student spat on her daughter.

Welcome said all the student had to do was write an apology letter as punishment. However, she feels that more action should have been taken.

“My biggest concern is that we’re just not seeing the school district address this growing misbehavior, but also violent behavior, in a dramatic way,” Palmer said.

unite us father

To address behavioral issues in the school district, Marlowe and Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon created an organization called United We Father.

Both are fathers whose children have been bullied in their schools.

The main mission is to appeal to fathers in Newberry, to hear about their experiences with fatherhood, to find out how they can support each other and how they can offer support to schools in Newberry, Marlowe said.

“We’ve both experienced different responses from different people on how to handle this and from different administrations (and) different teachers about what can be done and what needs to be done,” he said. he declares. “We both have the mentality that before we start pointing fingers at other people, we need to offer our help and assistance.”

Marlow says the recent change in student discipline policy has made the situation worse. A decade ago, he said, students were detained or suspended from school for certain incidents. Often they return to class the day after a major behavioral problem.

“Students who are really challenged and need to be in a different environment are still in our school at the end of the year, regardless of how their behavior affects the classrooms,” a- he declared. “I feel like I’m being asked to accept a certain level of mistreatment from students. If a student insults me in class or disrespects me in class, I’m supposed to accept that as behavior. typical teenager, and there are no real consequences for that.”


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