Broward teachers explain why they feel unsafe, demand more student discipline from district and administrators

(WSVN) - Half of Broward County teachers say they feel unsafe in school, and now — one week before school starts — some of those teachers are telling us why. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

Teacher: “Every day, there is someone who got hit, there’s someone who went to the hospital, there’s someone who was hurt.”

It’s rare to hear teachers and their assistants talk this openly about violence in their classrooms.

Teacher: “I have had kids throwing chairs at me. Tables, books, stabbed with a pencil — you name it.”

These Broward County teachers are afraid the school district will retaliate after they speak out, so we are not showing their faces.

Brian Entin: “Are teachers scared?”

Teacher: “A lot of them are.”

Teacher: “When you are afraid for your job, sometimes you don’t speak.”

These teachers are opening up after the Broward Teachers Union released this disturbing survey.

Almost 24% of teachers say they have been threatened with violence by students, while 13% say they have actually been assaulted. Half of teachers say they have felt unsafe at school.

Teacher: “So how do I feel? Unsafe, 100%. 100%.”

This teacher says one boy in her kindergarten class last year was especially dangerous.

Teacher: He opened the door, and I tried to stop him and said, ‘Excuse me. Where are you going?’ ‘I will be right back. I am going to find a police officer and I’m going to take his gun and come back and kill you all.'”

She says 15 minutes later, the assistant principal brought the student back to the classroom with no discipline.

Teacher: “In my case, I have no support from my administrators.”

The other teachers and aides had equally disturbing stories, like this one involving a special needs high schooler.

Teacher’s Aide: “A student was destroying a classroom. We have a panic button on the wall. He said to me, ‘If you push that button, I’m going to give you a black eye.’ I hit the panic button, and he hit me. He broke my glasses in my eye.”

Brian Entin: “Was that the worst thing that has happened to you?”

Teacher: “No, I have been in the back of the ambulance twice. I have been thrown down where I couldn’t get up.”

In many cases, the teachers say they are discouraged from filing reports, and the students almost always end up back in their classrooms, often without being disciplined.

Brian Entin: “Why do you think the administrators are not disciplining the students?”

Teacher: “They don’t want to upset the parents because if the parents get upset, they’re afraid they’re going to pull the kid out and put him somewhere else. Enrollment is low in my school, and my principal is fearful that he is going to lose more kids.”

The Broward School District denied our request for an interview, but in a statement, Superintendent Robert Runcie said, “The safety and well-being of our teachers is something Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) takes very seriously. The District Discipline Committee, made up of teachers, parents, principals, students and BCPS administrative representatives, will address feedback from our teachers. This will include occasions and circumstances of incidents, how they are reported and processed, and prevention. Maintaining a safe and respectful school environment is important to everyone – teachers, students, families and the entire community.”

The teachers we spoke to say the district’s discipline policies are not enforced.

Teacher: “It is not being applied consistently across all schools. In some cases, there are consequences. In some cases, there aren’t.”

Teacher: “If you compare this year with five, seven years ago, it’s just not the same. Everything has changed.”

The teachers union hand delivered the safety survey to the school board and superintendent. They are hoping it will open their eyes to what is going on in the classroom and start a dialogue about what needs to change.

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