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April 10, 2008

When students assault teachers

My e-mail box was flooded this morning with messages from people outraged by my story today about a teacher assault at Reginald F. Lewis High that was captured on video on a student's cell phone. People are stunned by the statistic: the school system has expelled students 112 times so far this academic year for assault on staff, compared with 98 times at this time last year. And the teachers union is charging that more assaults were not reported.

In reporting a story like this, my fear is that the public will view all city students as "running wild" (as Dr. Alonso said at the board meeting last month, when he asked the union to talk in specifics rather than generalizations). My perception is that at many schools, a few disruptive kids can make the numbers look bad for everyone. It's also important to keep in mind that if a teacher or other staff member tries to break up a fight and a student hits that adult accidentally, that's grounds for expulsion, and those incidents are included in the 112 figure.

At the same time, I hear from a lot of folks who believe that our schools are sending kids the message that inappropriate behavior won't be punished. Now there's a school system-teachers union task force to address the issue of teacher assaults in particular and school violence in general. Members will try to come up with strategies to improve the situation.

Any ideas?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:48 AM | | Comments (49)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)


This incident should not surprise anyone who works in Baltimore City Public Schools. Mr. Alonso claims he has a "zero tolerance for violence" policy. That's a good slogan for the press. If one objectively analyzes the data and observes the "actions on the ground," (by walking into schools unannounced)--the only logical conclusion is that the environment has deteriorated. Instead of suspending students and adhering to higher standards which might actually lead to higher test scores, administrators are enabling students with bad behavior and poor grades to take advantage of the system. Administrators share some responsibility--ultimately, Mr. Alonso has to accept the blame--they are simply following his failed policy.

The problem stems from a lack of emotional support and anger management at home.

Schools that are deemed "violent" should be legally required to have a reasonable staff of trained psychologist and mandatory after-school counseling for violent offenders.

The cost may seem like a lot now, but compare it to the likely costs that the court and juvenile justice systems will take on when this violent student is expelled and left on his own.

My idea would be for the school system to bite the bullet and see how many schools really are persistently dangerous rather than attempting to sweep student assaults on teachers under the rug.

Once the true scope of the problem is understood, then a carrot AND stick approach should be tried. Perhaps limited corporal punishment as a general tool for restoring classroom order and automatic expulsion ( or reform school) for an assault on a teacher - taking incidental contact off the definition of "assault" of course.

That would be the stick side. The carrot side could include things such as making sure all schools have air conditioning, a student grievance board (with contact to the principals or othe upper admins) for student issues with teachers, and perhaps more priviledges for students with better behavior records.

My two cents.

The Baltimore City School Superintendent needs to make an emergency announcement on TV and radio and inform the public that starting today any student who hits a teacher will be immediately arrested and expelled and will not return to a public school in Maryland. There needs to be a Maryland State Law against hitting teachers and classrooms must be safe. Unfortunately, MSDE frowns on schools with high suspension rates. Safety must come first and the Principal must expel a student that hits a teacher with no return to school.

put the troubled kids in a military style like camp.
just like breaking a wild horse you break these kids
wake them up at 5am force them to do a 25 mile hike with a drill instructor
military style discipline.
if they disbey put them in the stockade,

I work in Baltimore City schools. This is a real problem that will not be solved because we will not place responsibility where it ultimately belongs, with the parents.

The children of parents who value education succeed, EVEN IN LOW PERFORMING SCHOOLS. I have seen it first hand.

We talk and behave as if students come to us as angels and the schools turn them into something else. Many, not all, but many of our students come from homes where education is not valued as it used to be. If mom or guardian uses school as a babysitting service, why would we expect more out of their children.

We are teaching them things and in ways that mean little to them. They want information for survival in their world but we are training them for college and beyond. Many of them won't go to college (for many different reasons) so formal education is viewed as a waste.

Many urban students grow up in less than desirable situations from their neighborhoods to their home environment. They bring what they learn from the streets into schools and then we want them to behave differently. They are doing what they know.

Attempting to appease parents (as if they hold none of the responsibility for their children's behavior) and massaging statistics only makes the problems worse, not better.

It's speak to the growing problem with Baltimore City Public Schools. It doesn't matter the situation a student should be expelled immediately upon putting their hands on a teacher for any reason. This is why they have parents to defend their rights. However, in this school system unlike Baltimore County this matter will go unpunished. The students who did this act shouldn't at anytime be allowed back into the public school system. It's not our responsibility to educate these type of students. Parents are the first ones to blame the system if their child isn't given due process. What about the teacher who didn't deserve to have this incident to occur and have it posted on the Internet as if its a joke and to be accused by the principal that she started it? Who is this principal who needs to be replaced immediately. Most people who have common sense would have dealt with these students just as if they were someone on the streets. Until we get to a point where students are treated for the crime you will contine to have situations occur like this. Today, most students who attended city schools in the early 90's would have never thought about putting a video on the Internet. However, today's students believe there is something right about putting things on the Internet as if its going to make them famous. What fools they are. They are only doing exactly what society expects from them NOTHING..

So you want an answer. How about a universal standard for behavior in city schools. Every adult in the building is called Mr or Ms. every child is address by their last name. Teachers can not be overuled by a parent when their grades and behavior support the decision of displine. Every child is in uniforms no exception. Remove all electronic devices from students. Have all message channeled thru the school main office so the parents and school has an idea of what going on with their students. Return schools to a place of education and adolesent day care. Set standards so you can understand who can and who can't achieve so you can get the right help to those in need.

I can not agree with the posters more. These kids are being set up to fail and end up in jail. I use to tell my students you can learn from me or the judicial system. These kids are allowed to curse and hit teachers. With little or no consequences for there actions. If you hit a teacher especially when boys hit female teachers they should be kicked out immediately and arrested. I don't care if that sounds sexist, but it makes me angry when I hear about a boy hitting a woman. The worse part about it is more times than not the principal is a woman and they blame the teachers for being hit. Finally, don't you think if a student hit a principal or a vice-principal action would be taken. Teachers are getting the message there are not valued by Baltimore City Public Schools.

Tough love is needed. When you have cancer you cut it out of your body. You don't massage it or change the doctor's report so you can ignore the problem (i.e. fake assault stats). The reality is, some students are a cancer and need to be cut out to save the body. Disruptive students are not only infected themselves, they will spread their infection to others.

We need to change the way we look at public education. It should not be a right but rather a gift. It should be received as a gift with thanks and care. When the gift is abused, another gift is not issued in its place.

Unfortunately we have set up a system that rewards lying. The schools are not able to tell the truth about assaults because they fear the scarlet letter of being a persistently dangerous school. I think these schools should wear that letter like a badge of honor. They should say, "Look how much we care about the learning environment." If you are violent, you're out. You lose your gift.

Until we address the way we view public education, fix the "scarlet letter" problem, and set up alternative education opportunities, our tax dollars will continue to go into the black hole on North Avenue.

Not all the children are out-of-control thugs, not all the schools are chaotic, not all parents are uninvolved and not all the principals are incompetent. However, there are far too many out-of-control-students, chaotic schools, uninvolved parents and incompetent principals. Until something is done to remedy the situation, no amount of fiscal/educational reform will make a difference. We need the leaders in this community to support the teachers who often feel powerless and alone in trying to educate our young people. We need parents to support us instead of defending their children when they've clearly done wrong.

I remember when Bonnie Copeland's response to numerous fires was to say, "The children are crying out for help." Instead of, "This dangerous criminal activity will not be tolerated." Recently, in response to the school bus attack Dr. Alonso said, "We need to remember that these are children...", instead of , "This will be fully investigated and, if they are found guilty, they will be dealt with swiftly and severely." Our leaders need to send the message that education is important and they will not tolerate behavior that prevents the majority of students who want to learn from being successful.

As a graduate of the former Northern High School (25 years ago), I have seen a dramatic change in the climate. Renaming a school does not change the behavior of the residence of the building or the climate of the building. Change has to start with the individual. It is not the staff or teachers' fault. The fault lies with the parents and the disciplinary rules of the system. The children have no fear of authority today. It has to be proven to the students that violence against authority will not be tolerated.

I worked in BCPSS for two years. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this situation. "Blame" lies in many places...but rather than continuously try to figure out who is to blame, we should propose some solutions as well. So here is my feeble attempt - hopefully others will add to this:

1. For those that say to just expel them. Ludicrous! We will have literally 1000s of kids who will ultimately overburden the prison systems and cost society more. They ARE kids and they ARE crying out for something the only way they know how. SOLUTION: Troubled kids should absolutely receive consequences for situations such as this. BCPSS is the EPITOME of a district that needs Alternative Education settings with smaller class sizes and specially trained educators that can deal with the unique challenges of students such as the one who assaulted this teacher.

2. Ms. Grasmick must accept some blame for the ill-conceived "Persistently Dangerous" label. Hopefully, nobody doubts that administrators DO avoid suspensions of dangerous students in order to avoid the list - and this serves nobody. SOLUTION: Get rid of that ridiculous label. Instead, set-up a District wide Behavior system that awards those who do the right thing and gives clear and consistent consequences to students who act indefensibly.

3. Too often we blame everyone EXCEPT parents. Let me be clear - the large majority of parents are excellent and do an amazing job in a tough situation. But there are a handful of parents who are, and please excuse my strong words, absolutely useless human beings. I still have nightmares of parent conferences where I was told by a parent that they just can't control their 12 year old. Or better yet, the ones where parents showed up drunk or high. SOLUTION: Start holding parents accountable for their children. For families on public assistance, somehow tie the child's behavior and attendance and achievement to the welfare check. Harsh? Ya probably, but I bet we'll see some results with the handful of parents that are relying on that money. And this would not affect the majority of parents who are already, like I said, doing an amazing job.

Ultimately, these sort of stories deeply affect me, because I still have colleagues who are working tirelessly in BCPSS to effect positive change and open up opportunities for our children in Baltimore City. I pray for my children that I met through two years in the classroom - the ones who will succeed and the ones who hopefully will realize they need to change their ways or else they won't.

Jolita Berry, The same thing happened to me. I am an Art teacher as well and I was assulted in my classroom in 2001. It was in a school in the Rochester City Schools NY. My Principal was so bad I want to talk with you to help you heal. I had the worst post tramatic stress from the assult and had night mares for a year. I have been glued to the T.V. Today. Finally someone has talked out about this. I wrote Oprah my story trying to get this to the news and I went to my news locally but had to do it in the dark because my principal threated to Black Ball me from the proffesion if I spoke out. I had a back injury for a month I needed PT. Counciling worked so well for me. I tried to go back to work but in a Catholic district for 2 years but I was so tramatized that I had to leave. I am gladly a stay at hime mom at the moment but the idea of going back to teaching is a fear. I just have scene to much in the inner city schools. 112 teachers assulted in one year is horrible. Don't go back there. I thought the 8 at my school was unacceptible. That principlal should be fired and the Union should bring up a case against her/him. Mine was eventually after enough dangerous stuff and a girl getting stabed in school was finally terminated. anyway. Write me and I want to talk to you personally some how, give you a hug. Good for you to have the strangth for doing this. I am on your side.

Oprah Winfrey investigated opening a school in America for students from underpriviliged homes. She decided that students in America don't value an education enough, so she went to South Africa to open a school for girls. She felt that every child in America had access to a free public education and it was up to them to use it the right way. Students in South Africa did not have access to a free public education.
We need to change the way we look at education. It should be a privilege, not a right. Students that abuse that privilege lose their chance at a free education unless they reapply with strict standards, and have parental involvement. There are no consequences for students, plus they don't value an education. Let's worry about the students who do.

Someone else (FormerCityTeacher) already posted "the answer" to this "problem". I'm going to repost it -- everyone please read - if this was implemented IT WOULD solve this problem.

Tough love is needed. When you have cancer you cut it out of your body. You don't massage it or change the doctor's report so you can ignore the problem (i.e. fake assault stats). The reality is, some students are a cancer and need to be cut out to save the body. Disruptive students are not only infected themselves, they will spread their infection to others.

We need to change the way we look at public education. It should not be a right but rather a gift. It should be received as a gift with thanks and care. When the gift is abused, another gift is not issued in its place.

Unfortunately we have set up a system that rewards lying. The schools are not able to tell the truth about assaults because they fear the scarlet letter of being a persistently dangerous school. I think these schools should wear that letter like a badge of honor. They should say, "Look how much we care about the learning environment." If you are violent, you're out. You lose your gift.

Until we address the way we view public education, fix the "scarlet letter" problem, and set up alternative education opportunities, our tax dollars will continue to go into the black hole on North Avenue.

The teachers are grossly underpaid and have to put up with far more hassles than we could ever imagine. So in my eyes one assault like what that teacher experienced is one assault too many. The idea policy is explusion for at least a semester with home monitoring/tutoring as well as community service involving cleaning up the school and doing speeches on why it's wrong to assault an authoritative figure ( to include teachers). Sadly enough, with so little financial investment in educating our future generation as well as very little involvement from the communities, this incident may end up being 15 minutes of shame fame.

"It's also important to keep in mind that if a teacher or other staff member tries to break up a fight and a student hits that adult accidentally, that's grounds for expulsion, and those incidents are included in the 112 figure."

Are you crazy? What is the difference?!?!?

This is not just happening in Baltimore. I live in a largely populated city in the Southeastern US. I've been threatened with death, punched and verbally abused by elementary school students (ages 9 to 13). The greatest punishment for any student was 5 days suspension. That student threatened to kill me because he thought I was going to call his mother to discuss his behavior. I wanted to press charges but was intimidated by the "Resource Officer" (employed by the school district), principal, assistant principal, parent and adult sibling of the child. I felt that they believed his threat was my fault. After the suspension, he returned to my room with smirks, and even less respect than he had before. The last week of school, he carried a backpack that he refused part with. I was terrified that he was concealing a weapon. I expressed my concern but he was permitted to carry the backpack anyway. I regret not filing charges. I feel that we are working in unsafe conditions and no one is very concerned about our welfare. Luckily, I survived.

I'm a teacher, and I'm just glad to hear that PEOPLE out there are finally listening to us. If parents can't control their ONE teenager, how are we supposed to not only control 32 teenagers crammed into a room that was designed to only hold 25, but also get them to learn algebra?

America, we need HELP!

80% of my kids (YOUR children) want to learn, but about 20% of their classmates range from being so disruptive that they need to be "redirected" to sit down, stop socializing, or do the lesson MULTIPLE times during the course of one 40 minute class session to being repetitive offenders of crimes ranging from harassment to theft to assault!

And their parents! For example, believe it or not, there was a case of middle school boys sending each other nude pictures on their cell phones DURING CLASS. Guess what? Some parents were mad that the principal took their sons' property away from them! The parents attitude was "boys will be boys."

Even if we can finally get a student referred to an alternative educational setting after about a year (no exaggeration) of infractions, our entire district of 10,000 students only has room for 20 students in an alternative school setting! Soooooo, we usually just have to try keep dealing with the student as best we can. And, the other students get the clear message that they don't have to have ANY respect for authority in our society.

Wake up, America! Give schools the authority needed to tell nutty parents who are trying to be "friends" to their of out-of-control children that the parents need to go to parenting/ counseling classes with their children while their children are in alternative schools with smaller class sizes and police presence. When the children have gotten their grades up and proven they can control themselves, only then, they should be allowed back into a standard school on PROBATION.

As a teacher, my heart just bleeds for the 80% of my students who would honestly like to get into their education, but have to put up with me "redirecting" the same kids again and again ... or the phone calls I have to take from our school police officer about this or that criminal act that occurred.

Get the 20% of the students with problems the actual help they need in a more appropriate alternative learning settings, and let us really TEACH the 80% (left in smaller class sizes) who want to learn. Then, America would have the kind of educational system we need to compete globally.

And, folks, I don't work at an inner city school. I work in an upscale, suburban school!

Yes it is true that administrators fudge the stats to avoid Persistently Dangerous status and avoid termination. Yes they pay for trainings, which does not get to the root of the problem; which is society as a whole. Poor parenting, violence on T.V. and video games and no accountability in the judicial system. Good teachers are leaving the profession in droves and guess what the city does. Instead of supporting good teachers who love our children in our community, they replace them with 200+ Philipino teachers per year (lovely people don't hear me wrong) in which most kids can't relate to...let alone understand. Dr. Alonzo and the school board spends hundreds of thousands of dollars recruiting in the Philipines. This money can be spent to give scholarships for people who are interested in making a difference or all these real estate agents who are out of work. I do feel there are some missing statements in this situation. I am not blaming the teacher, because sometimes frustration can get the best of you. However, when she told the kid to sit down and she refused, instead of entertaining her any longer, she should have called for school police or an administrator to remove her from the room. Those of us who deal with these youths daily know that you can't go toe to toe with them. She didn't respect your authority, then move to the next level of discipline. Make her the administrators problem.

Yes the young lady should be expelled. Not only her, but there are a lot of bad apples that need alternative placements or should be put out until they are mature enough to realize the need for an education. This is when the city begins to look at Adult Education. For those county dwellers who act as though they are in isolation, if we leave them with out the option of being educated, guess who will be knocking you over the head when you walk down your professionally landscaped driveway to get the morning paper. This is a nation wide problem. Play your part. Demand change.

I posted above regarding possible solutions. I am firmly of the belief that there must be strict consequences that are District wide. Teachers should NEVER be intimidated by their Administrators - the most LIBERATING moment for me as a teacher in BCPSS was the day I realized in my first year that BCPSS and my school needed me a whole helluva lot more than I needed them. I was a competent, hard-working, effective Science educator and male role model - so as soon as I felt liberated, I also realized I could demand from my Administrators what I should have been receiving anyway.

That being said, PLEASE let's not jump the gun here. To call a CHILD "cancer" is absolutely shocking! If we want to consider this medical metaphor, let's take it all the way - cancers arise from one group of mutated and "bad" cells. So to call these children cancers is really an indictment of our society and the type of children that WE ADULTS are raising. The adults are the ones at fault, not the kids, and to say that from such a young age a child deserves to be cut off and cast away is a very irresponsible idea, based on anger at this situation rather than what is best for our children and country.

We have paid too much money to obtain the best education in order to GIVE the best education. Take our hard earned degrees and go to schools where the monthly tuition is equivalent to a mortgage payment, 92% of students attend college, the majority of children come from 2-parent, educated households

The reoccurring problem of violence and outright disrespect from the students towards the teachers is no surprise at all. The Baltimore City School System is in complete denial of why these types of violent acts continue to drive teachers away from the system and ultimately the profession.

As a beginning elementary school teacher, I see these types of violent outburst on a regular basis. Instead of actually teaching, I consistently try to keep peace in the classroom. Some may say I have a classroom management problem. Is it really a classroom management problem when I simply ask a student to stop talking and they respond by walking out of class, or throwing pencils at the chalk board?

Baltimore City officials are going to continue to have these types of problems until they hold parents accountable for their children's behavior

I've read article this one for the past few days and the one thing that these stories do not address is holding the students accountable for their actions. Training teachers to difuse situations that can become confrontational will be absolutely ineffective if the students know that their will be no consequences for their actions. This generation of student in school, not just in balitmore city, does not value the educational process and have not been taught values from home. If families were held accountable these widespread incidents would not be so prevelant.

Here's an idea:

School is supposed to be an environment which is conducive to learning (positive and peaceful).

This can be achieved early in the school year.
The nip it in the bud approach if you will.

Find out which children really want to learn and place them in that environment.

Those who dont, find a setting in which they can possibly can be saved hopefully.

If all else fails, take necessary steps to remove them from this conducive environment to save those who want to learn.

I know this sounds like a fantasy, but nothing else works. Why not give it a try!!

I'm a BCPSS teacher and am glad to see that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. I agree with the posters who commented that 80% of the kids are there to get an education. I do what I can for them but there is a limit to what I can do in an environment where there are herds of over-age kids running wild in the halls, pounding on lockers, tearing up the building, setting off fire alarms, fighting in halls, etc. These kids do these things because they know there are no consequences for their actions.

Herein lies only part of the problem with NCLB (No Child Left Behind). We work so hard to not leave behind that 20% of the students that demand 90% of our attention for their disruptive behaviors that the 80% who want an education are not able to get what they deserve! Some children need to not necessarily be left behind, but need to be placed elsewhere.

We need to start with revamping NCLB to a piece of legislation written by educators and not law makers and demand responsibility on the part of the parents. Only then can we begin to experience positive change.

Why is it that this student has not been identified in the media? As the crimes of juveniles have become increasingly violent in the past century (and even moreso in the past few decades), the concern regarding the rehabilitation of the offender is far outweighed by the concern the public should have in knowing the identity of these young, violent offenders. If my research is still accurate, Maryland is one of only eight states that does not release the identity of the accused in juvenile proceedings. In this case, the attacker has not even been charged. I'm aware of no law (nor journalistic code of ethics) prohibiting a journalist from identifying the attacker. Indeed, journalistic ethics should compel the disclosure of this attacker's identity.

I live in a ghetto town in California. my husband is a teacher at juvenile hall. I will say this there is no way that kid would not have been arrested on the spot. The kids in juvy appreciate school because that is their only form of recreation there. And it is a highly supervised and controlled environment which seems to work with probation officers breathing down their necks. Once they have spent enough time in juvy they tend to behave once released to a continuation school. Also why haven't these teachers collectively sued the school for allowing this to continue? My husband and I are stunned that we haven't heard of these teachers suing the school. It looks like admin needs to be revamped and the unions need to get some backbone. Yes it is the parents fault but these parents are not going to contribute in any way. The kids need to be held accountable. It is their actions causing the grief they are old enough to know right from wrong and if they are yanked out of school and placed under more extreme authority they will figure out what is right from wrong.

That video doesn't show a student that hit the teacher accidentally. I'm sorry, but even one assault in the school system is too much. Students should not only be expelled; they should be arrested for assault. Then the courts can deal with them. Expulsion just puts them on the street where they can assault anyone or worse.

When I walked into school today, the first email I got was from colleagues and friends in Baltimore.

I used to teach in BCPSS. I was assulted during my first year of teaching. Nothing compared to what this teacher received by I was still punched in the face by a student. I naively expected that my administrators would do something about the issue. Their solution was to give the student a ONE day suspension. They then tried to force me to continue to teach this student which I refused to do. The admin even brought in his aunt and had her cry to me about how I was preventing her nephew from learning.

The idea that any of those 112 expulsions came from teachers getting in the crossfire of student fights is completely ridiculous. I even saw a student attack the assistant principal once. Those 112 explusions were probably much much more serious than a teacher trying to break up a student fight.

After two years there was no way I could continue at the school I was at. Like everyone has said there was a core 20% of students who ruined the building for everyone. Everytime we tried to get one of them an alternative placement it was rejected. Too many requests and too few open spots. Our only success was that we were able to send one student to Shepard Pratt for a week. The sad part is that he wanted to stay there. He preferred Shepard Pratt to his own home.

Are there anymore principals like Joe Clark still around? Principals and administrators should be held to higher standards just as well as teachers. They rarely check to see if the teachers have what they need to make learning successful; teachers are reprimanded if they send a disruptive child out into the hall because the administrators and resource officers who are usually outnumbered are often too preoccupied with their own foolishness to deal with the issues. The school district is also to blame for while many of them are enjoying riding around in their luxury cars and living in their moderate to luxurious homes, students must leave their emotionally and physically broken homes only to come to a school that more times than none do not offer them a classroom with an air unit; how can the teacher or the student think clearly if they are forced to deal with one or two fans, usually bought by the teacher or brought in by a student or bundle up in the winter with multiple garments during the winter months to stay warm. Even worse most schools do not allow students to take textbooks home in fear that students may tear them apart? Hello, some may but the majority will not because they understand that the desire for them to be educated is valued. Instead of the principals, administrators and district officers sitting in their offices and chatting with their peers (who are within their cliques) they need to come out of the dark and into the light and help save these children as if they are their own. Whether we want to deal with the issues or not an assault is absolutely inexcusable, children are our future and it is up to all of us, countrywide, parents included to make sure that they don't end up dead or locked away because of their immaturity. Let us be mindful of who we elect in the fall as our president and force whoever he or she maybe to come out of Washington and return to the people; people who are tired of being tired because we deserve better. Whether we are black, white, hispanic or asian let's take it the streets principals, administrators, teachers, districts, parents and students alike and take back our schools with one voice and the faith that we can and will receive change.

What a terrible situation. I can't help but get worked up as I read these comments. I think there are a number of assumptions that people are ignoring. Until these assumptions are considered, we need to take a step back and do anything we can to make sure we approach the situation rationally and effectively (as opposed to taking measures based on false or misleading information... like invading Iraq for instance... I know, I know - I couldn't resist):

Preface: No teacher should EVER feel threatened to teach. The one time I did while teaching in BCPSS was one of the most troubling moments of my experiences as a high school teacher. There's no excuse for it. But, just as we do in the law, we must focus on the particular facts of this individual case before we apply a generally inapplicable standard to a whole population.

1) The 80% argument is bogus.

The "tough" 20% at KIPP Academy or City/Poly is certainly a bit different then the 20% at say IBE or Patterson HS. I know that's a generalization, but in every situation there will be a bottom 20 and top 80, and when we put the bottom 20 into a different context those individuals may find themselves among a different cohort in the new environment. The problem then becomes... where do you stop? Where's the line?

2) It's likely that the fracturing system in Baltimore with creaming at City/Poly/Western has manufactured the problem in the first place.

We create a tiered, caste system where if a student finds him or herself in the bottom, his/her chances of graduating drop by about 70%. Difficult I know, because you certainly don't want to punish the top acheivers. However, we need to look at the effect of "separation" - it certainly led to some pretty horrible and regretable practices under Jim Crow - and I wouldn't want to see it replicated in a different fashion with different buzz words used to "separate" children.

3) Costs. I don't care if you're the most libertarian, anti-government, anarchist out there - severe costs are associated with "dropping students from school" or "throwing them in prison."

On average it costs roughly $9,600 a year to educate a child (minus externality costs). For that same child to spend a year in a juvenile detention center, the cost is roughly $72,000 a year. We cannot jail/punish our way out of the situation on the aggregate for the mere fact that it's too expensive. We can't say we want punishment and then not fund the punishment. That's probably worse then leaving it alone in the first place.

4) Like it or not, we live in a country with a constitutional structure that guarantees that all people are created equal.

Should we give up on providing an adequate and excellent education to all people, we might as well give up on the foundations of our government system. Likely because we don't provide equal education we find ourselves in the trouble we're now facing. The history of who and how we educate in America has told a pretty clear picture of how people exist in society. We've put way too much at stake in public education to just give up.

5) There has to be an answer.

Great schools and great kids are doing incredible things across the city. These students come from the same populations as the girl seen in the video hitting the teacher. We can do something about it; we must. We need to stop looking at who to blame (parents, teachers, admin, students, etc...) and start facing our fear that we can't make a difference. We can make a difference, and we must.

Hope this adds at least something to the conversation. Artie, I agree with you, let's limit the discussion to the facts of this particular case and ONLY those extremely similar before making a broad, ineffective generalization.

I'm very confident that we can be the change that we want to see to make things better in Baltimore; we just have to believe that we can and act strategically to do it. Please keep up the writing, it's through these types of discourses (unfortunately) that we can really start to see a collective picture.

In the same way that parents are legally responsible when their children are truant, have them stand before a judge when their children go to schools and act like thugs.

There had never been a time prior to Ragin's arrival that I dreaded coming to work. I dread it all the time now because you never know what may happen. Fires and assaults go unreported.While the CEO is at it, he needs to check out our attendance and test scores! Ragin needs to go!

Ragin did nothing but pretty up the school and alienate seasoned teachers and administrators. She has a teacher, Rachel Mitchell, acting as an administrator without the credentials. She is a math teacher and could be useful in the classroom instead of in the office causing confusion.

Rachel Mitchell, Ragin's mentee, was assaulted and that student was immediately arrested. Double standard anyone?

This school has not been the same since the prior principal, Federico Adams, left. He was making great strides. Bring back, Mr. Adams!

I believe that all of the adults need to be honest with themselves. Students know that the adults do not have the answers. After all, a teacher being attacked is not a new issue in an environment that has proven that education is not the first priority within its community. If that were the case, wouldn't there already be existing programs within the curriculum addressing social behavior? Students are not going to school. When they do go, they show no interest in what is being taught.

In order to change the behavior of the students who are disruptive and socially impaired, the adults must identify the needs of those students and begin to brainstorm about how to meet those needs.

I agree that an anger management class would perhaps be a successful strategy. However, more would need to be done. Such as implementing youth advocacy programs for those who are struggling socially and academically. In addition, a meeting amongst school officials, parents, students and community stakeholders (outside of the PTA) to discuss problems and resolutions of each school and community.

Make the students a part of the conversation. Challenge the worst students in the school to become community leaders by giving them the responsibility to improve their schools and community rather than help destroy them.

I am probably the odd ball out here. I currently live in Georgia I was born and raised in Maryland and still come back to visit. The media love to play it up for the teacher who has been assualted by the student BUT when it is the other way around the child who has been assualted by the teacher NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING. Let's look for the reasons some of our children are becoming so violent and what triggerred the violence. We have teachers who actively post on bragging and condoning hitting 4,5, and 6 yr old children with wooden paddles and calling the children foul repugnant names. You go to school year after year and then have to survive on the street or neighborhood dealing with the violence.. We as a NATION need to realize violence begets violence.

Theresa Edwards,
I'm sure what you are saying happens, but I have never seen it at my school.
In fact, I HAVE seen a teacher get suspended without pay because he was trying to break up a fight and one of the students cut his hand during the altercation. The teacher got involved, and was punished for his actions. The student was not punished for instigating the fight or causing a disruption.
We all used to run to break up fights, now we go a little bit slower.

I left BCPSS because I was attacked by a student when I asked him to put away his playing cards. He was sent back to class with a note saying "X says he is sorry and won't do it again. Please admit to class."

I have never been attacked, or even threatened, at the Baltimore County school where I work. I believe that if I WAS attacked, though, my administration would get the child out of the building immediately.

I can't believe BCPSS hasn't changed in twelve years. Horrible.

"Educators lack skills to defuse clashes, some say"

Thirty one years latter and I am reminded of the beating of my mother a former educator in mathematics at Lombard junior high school in 1977. After being beaten by several students, administrators demanded she complete paperwork for her injuries before calling for ambulance. I recall taking with her as she lay in traction hospitalized for her spinal injuries and head trauma. As with this incident the students then were not removed from the school and 31 years latter nothing has changed. To infer that this educator Ms. Jolita Berry lacks the interpersonal skills to resolve conflict to disuse or de-escalate conflict after 30 years of life is ludicrous. The facts need to be faced by society; this is a violent city, we already have students left behind that are now parents themselves, and those former students now have children that live in a society that is dominated by violence. The youth today have lived in a world that many can only imagine through movies where the strong dominate and the weak are beaten into submission. Politicians, administrators and the average person needs to understand we have those that would ratter kill or harm you verses listen to one word you have to say to help influence their actions in life, let alone the seconds before you are about to be beaten into submission. The violence and lack of social responsibility is nothing new for a student in a public school, its just 31 years latter we are finding creative ways of assigning blame to the educator/victim!

I think that the fight is the student's fault because she hit the teacher and the teacher did not hit her first. I think the student should be expelled. The principal should be demoted because she did not support the teacher. Also she did not punish the student severely. In my school if students did this they would get expelled and the principal would support the teacher. I am 10 years old and go to school in Baltimore County.

The only reason that BCPSS has been forced to recruit teachers from the Philippines (and then Jamaica, and now Panama) is that the district couldn't find enough qualified teachers in America willing to brave Baltimore City public schools. And can you blame them?

Good luck with recruiting locally after this video.

It took internet video distribution, national news, inquisitive reporters and some brave teachers to bring this ongoing tragedy to light. Hopefully more teachers will be able to speak about their experiences without fear of retaliation. We are observing the tip of the iceberg.
Once the standards are improved for what is acceptable physical behavior towards a teacher, then the commonplace everyperiod verbal insults, profanity and disrespect will be less tolerated.

The problem is not finding local quality teachers to teach in Baltimore City. There are plenty of teachers recruited each year. The problem is retaining those teachers. After 2 years of the same problems day in and day out, it wears us out. There is only so much abuse, frustration, and stress that one person can take. I have taught in the same high school for 3 years and I think this has been my worst year. I almost left Baltimore City schools last year, but stayed because I was dedicated to my students. This has been my worst year because as much as a few colleagues and I have tried to bring about change to my school without the help/support from our administration it is next to impossible. We are still dealing with the same problems we had when I started 3 years ago.

I think the problems start with our judicial system because it makes our kids of today think they are untouchable. Also the responsibilty is at home because now days with the economy being so bad parents are having to work more hours and are spending less time at home but i dont think a parent should be held accountable for a kids actions for something out of their control not unless they are a part of what happens.

Here's another side to the story. I'm a first year high school math teacher in Baltimore. I don't teach at one of the "better" schools but I do have a great administration. I love my job. The vast majority of my students are wonderful. Of course there are problems, but personally, I am very happy with my job and look forward to many years in Baltimore City -- helping my students, and the BCPSS improve. I think that Dr. Alonso is doing some exciting things and bringing real change to the system, that we'll see the true fruition of in the years to come.

First Year Teacher, That is a refreshing point of view, now the trick is maintaining that sense of enjoyment for the long haul. My first year in the city this old lady in the office always said "This too will pass" , whenever new administrators from north ave would come in, or new state monitors, or new protocols, or new ideas, or new standards, tests etc. The problem with Baltimore schools is that everything does pass, and no progress is left. Stay in there and fight it out, but you can only pat yourself on the back. The people in charge are justifying their job, not yours- remember that.

Join us Sunday Night as we discuss this issue as well as other topics on "Sports Talk" Call in and join the discussion with your opinion at Sunday March 6th at 8pm

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