School Safety

I got this from a colleague, addressed to me but really all of us. It’s pretty serious:
Ben –
I’m really trying to process something that happened in my class right now.  Would love your thoughts and input if you have time.
Kids cannot learn if they don’t feel safe.  We cannot teach if we don’t feel safe.  But, what happens if we aren’t safe?
I have one class where there are some real hard cases.  I actually have really liked these kids, and for the most part, I have been having better results than some of the other teachers… but there is no real panacea to every problem, you know?
A few weeks ago we had a horrific fight in our school.  The kid who was attacked was sent to shock trauma in a helicopter… he is left blind in one eye.  One of the attackers was my student.  The rest of the class (not the one during the fight, but one in which he was a student) has been behaving very strangely since then.
I have another student in the same class who has emotional issues. He has an IEP for these problems.  He can be a really great kid, but then sometimes he snaps.  And it is scary.  For me.  For the kids.  He starts cussing, and threatening to hurt the other students, he hits the walls of the classroom loudly.  The students kind of laugh once he is gone, but they have to be scared.
Long story short.  He did it again today.  I turned in the referral.  I asked that he be removed from my class.  I was told that is impossible.  The answer changed after I broke down into tears and told the administrator that it is not ok to have him threatening 32 other students.
So… background is over.  Venting is over.  The question remains. How can we teach if we can’t keep the kids safe?  How can I keep the kids safe?
My response to this is simple: If kids like the two you describe above are allowed into classes in schools, then something is deeply wrong with your school system and the fools who run it. If kids are not in a completely safe setting, then we fix it. Period.



2 thoughts on “School Safety”

  1. Ben,
    Please encourage this caring teacher to seek support. First step should be whatever kind of teacher organization exists where this teacher works. Second step is an employee support program, if it exists. NO ONE should have to teach in these circumstances, but sadly, we know that it does happen.
    This kind of school can harm us, physically and emotionally, even if a student never does. It is important to find whatever ways exist to provide support and strength…
    My prayers are with this giving person…and all of the students as well.
    with love,

  2. This story is about some very serious physical safety issues. I am grateful not to have anything like that. But I do sometimes have emotional safety issues in my classroom. There’s one class right now whose input I must always screen before I use it– there are just a handful of students who will include mean inside jokes, or use and distort stories from class to make fun of someone when they’re not in class. So now, with that group, I solicit ideas that are written and just throw out the ones I can’t trust.
    I would like a fear-free classroom, all of the time. But I don’t have it yet.

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