School violence among reasons teachers leaving Metro

(Graphic: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Unruly students, fights in school, and a lack of support from campus administrators are among the top motivating factors for teachers leaving the Metro-Nashville school district.

“We will have, from time to time, positions where there are three different people in it within one school year,” said Dr. Erick Huth with Metro Nashville Education Association. “In some cases, a teacher will resign the same day they start.”

Metro Schools employs around 11,000 teachers to handle a student population of around 86,000 kids.

“There appears to be a district-wide effort by principals to diminish the reporting of events of violence,” Dr. Huth said. ”It is one of the things we saw to some extent last year, and I think it is more serious this year.”

Information about the number of assaults by students on Metro campuses was not available at the time of this article.

(Screenshot of submitted video)

Dr. Huth said changes implemented to the student code of conduct and the consequences for violating the code of conduct last year impacted student behavior.

“We went from a system where there were prescribed punishments for certain infractions,” he said. “The district eliminated all of those prescribed punishments. The result has been that the reporting of assaults and fights involving students has diminished.”

Another result, Dr. Huth said, is more unruly students who do not fear punishment.

“We have reports from teachers that students will charge them, butt them with their heads, and there is nothing that happens to the student,” he explained to News 2. “Students throw desks, students throw desks and chairs, and nothing happens.”

He continued, “What we need is the system to take some of these acts of violence more seriously and actually have a punishment instead what they are doing right now, which is talking to students and sending them back to class.”

Dr. Huth provided messages sent from teachers at a Metro middle school that he forwarded to the central office.

One of the messages said:

There was a fight Monday, March 13 during the 7th and 8th grade lunch transition. Coach who monitors all the lunches, was calling for help on the walkie. Ms. [Redacted] and I ran down to assist. One of the boys in this fight was in the gang fight two weeks ago.

The guidance counselor was reprimanded after this fight for saying this school isn’t safe, our kids are not safe. A student has not been to any of her classes since 3/1/17. She is so scared of some girls who threatened to fight her that she hides in other grade level classes. She is so scared that she is hiding out and not doing any of her work. Administration is aware of this and nothing has been done.

Teachers would like a climate survey so our concerns can be heard and addressed. Students have also voiced their concerns and how they are no consequences for anything that happens. Safety has been mentioned by students in several classrooms. The students also mentioned that students who are suspended still come to school and are allowed to stay at school even though they are suspended. This is true and it happens daily.

In a separate message, a teacher wrote:

I need to alert you to what is happening at our school. Yesterday, we had another gang fight. It was really bad and brutal. Students arrested, being taken out on stretchers, etc. All because our principal could not get rid of one student that came back to us from ALC after Christmas. He has promoted gangs and has caused many other students to act out. This is our second gang fight in two weeks and the teachers here do not feel safe. This student basically does what he wants around here and when you speak out on him and his actions, you are looked down on.

News 2 sent those messages to Metro Schools, who replied with the following statement:

Every day, principals in Metro Schools make decisions to manage student behavior. The district is making strides to provide more training and resources to support principals in this work.

As part of the district’s school culture and climate reform efforts, the district is developing a multi-tiered support system that includes academic and behavioral management. The district is working with the Tennessee Department of Education, CASEL, local providers, and schools to improve processes and procedures to maintain staff and student safety.

This includes plans for trainings for all administrators and staff on schoolwide behavioral management plans, classroom management best practices, and how to provide appropriate consequences for behavior while helping students overcome the barriers they may face.