At a Thursday school board meeting at Brevard County School District, administrators shed light on the disturbing behaviors that have likely led to the staggering number of teacher and bus driver resignations.
Matthew Yount, a fifth-grade teacher at Imperial Estates Elementary School, noted some of the "egregious behaviors" he witnessed, including spitting, biting, drug use, and theft.
"I've watched dozens of my peers and friends leave their classrooms, schools, or their profession entirely," said Yount. "An almost universal reason is the deterioration on student behavior over the past few years."
Another teacher in the district, Alicia Kelderhouse, stated, "On an everyday basis I am deflecting being attacked, scratched, headbutted, pushed, hit."
"I've had my hair pulled, and pulled down to the ground. I've had my throat gone for on multiple occasions. It's on an everyday basis right now," Kelderhouse added.
Several staff members, including public school teacher Sandy Edward, argued that cell phones have continued to be a significant distraction in the classroom.
Brevard Federation of Teachers President Anthony Colucci noted at the meeting that the district had received a growing number of reports of student conduct violations, including assaults against staff and recorded sexual acts between students on school property.
One teacher reported being hit in the face with a tape dispenser by a student, and another educator sustained a bite mark from a student. Furniture was removed from a classroom after students repeatedly threw it at each other.
Last month, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey released a video addressing the surging violence in public schools and the "failure of the school discipline policy."
"As a result, we're losing teachers en masse," Ivey stated. "Teachers that can no longer take having their classes disrupted by these clowns."
"They're not worried about getting in trouble," Ivey continued. "They know nothing's going to happen to them. They know they're not going to be given after-school detention. They're not going to be suspended. They're not going to expelled. Or, like in the old day, they're not going to have the cheeks of their ass torn off for not doing right in class."
Wayne claimed that the teachers and principals in Brevard county are "handcuffed" from implementing discipline policies that effectively deter students from misbehaving.
Some parents who attended Thursday's school board meeting took issue with Ivey's message.
A local NAACP member stated, "Our children are not clowns" and accused the sheriff of using "scare tactics" and "bullying" to promote a new disciplinary framework.
Jennifer Jenkins, chair of education information for the South Brevard NAACP, told Florida Today, "We are disproportionately disciplining students of color and with disabilities."
"There is zero evidence to support the claims that the federal laws meant to protect these students are handcuffing our staff," Jenkins said, referring to Wayne's comments.
The ACLU of Florida told the Daily Beast that during the 2020-2021 school year, Brevard county removed approximately 7,400 students from class through suspensions and expulsions, and another 94 students were arrested.
According to the ACLU of Florida, the district's new disciplinary strategy involves "over-policing tactics that further villainize school children."