Out of control: Pennsylvania teachers beg administration to deal with unruly, violent students

Out of control: Pennsylvania teachers beg administration to deal with unruly, violent students
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, students are allegedly assaulting teachers, disrupting classrooms, and damaging property. Teachers are also begging for help from administrators. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

Obnoxious students in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are allegedly assaulting teachers, disrupting classrooms, and damaging property. Teachers are begging administrators for support, saying the situation is out of control, The Patriot-News reported.

Shockingly, some of the worst behavior is reportedly coming from some of the youngest students in the Harrisburg School District.

“Teachers and students are being hit, kicked, slapped, scratched, cussed at … and observing other students flip over tables, desks and chairs. Teachers have had to take the rest of their class into the hallway to protect them during these outbursts,” Harrisburg Education Association President Jody Barksdale said.

Amanda Sheaffer, a first-grade teacher, shared some of her experiences.

“I have been hit, I have been kicked, I have been restrained from behind where I’ve been unable to move my arms,” Sheaffer said in a report from The Patriot-News. “It really throws off the whole day. I mean, you have an incident happen and you have to do a room clear, get all the students out, and then after that you have to take the time to do the write-up, and you have to make sure security comes and gets the kids.

“Many minutes are spent each day dealing with violence that is happening in the classroom,” she added.

Sheaffer and a group of other teachers and parents were among those addressing the school board Monday. Most of them are from the district’s Melrose and Downey elementary schools, The Patriot-News reported.

Barksdale first brought concerns of a growing student discipline problem to district administrators in January. Since then, not much has changed, she said. Barksdale is asking the district to form a task force of parents, teachers, and administrators to examine the issue and offer solutions.

More training is also needed to help students deal with trauma, stress, and other mental health issues, she said.

Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney agreed to form a task force but said solving the problem could take time. The district was forced to outsource counseling and other service in 2010, following budget cutbacks.

At least 45 teachers have resigned from July through October and more are expected, according to Barksdale. District administrators refuted claims that the resignations were directly tied to student discipline problems.

Student behavior issues are apparently not isolated to elementary schools.

In March, 500 students — or about one-half of the student population — at Harrisburg High School were given suspension notices for unexcused absences, according to reports.

In any event, student discipline is a growing concern across the nation, according to a 2014 report by Scholastic, a global education and publishing company. In a study of 10,000 teachers across the nation, 58 percent of elementary teachers, 64 percent of middle school teachers and 53 percent of high school teachers said they have noticed an increase in student behavior problems.

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