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‘Total chaos,’ assaults, death threats: Nashville teachers slam failed restorative justice student discipline

Mar 2, 2019 by

In Nashville, teachers are complaining about chaos in the classroom and they’re blaming the district’s restorative justice student discipline policies for the mayhem.

A dozen teachers in Metro Nashville Public Schools agreed to discuss rampant student violence in a Teacher Town Hall coordinated by WTVF last weekend that focused on student discipline policies promoted by district superintendent Shawn Joseph.

The policies fall in line with efforts by the Obama administration to reduce the disproportionate number of suspensions for minority students, mostly by keeping kids in school who don’t deserve to be there and disrupt learning for their classmates.

In school districts across the country, the federal government encouraged schools to exchange suspensions for talking circles, counseling, or other restorative justice techniques that teach students there’s no serious repercussions for bad behavior.

Numerous Nashville teachers who spoke to WTVF described their schools as “total chaos,” with some receiving injuries and death threats from students with no help from administrators.

“I mean, there’s just no accountability for the students,” high school teacher Laura Leonard said.

“Students are in school and they are disruptive and they are running through the halls and they are using profanity and hurting other students,” elementary guidance counselor Constance Wade said.

Students have become so emboldened they’re now verbally abusing school police, prompting the Metro Nashville Police Department to pull three school resource officers from two different schools earlier this month and move them elsewhere to avoid the harassment, The Tennessean reports.

The Teacher Town Hall also comes amid turmoil in the district, with some board members supporting Joseph and others calling for his ouster. The split has resulted in an online petition urging Nashville board member Fran Bush to resign. Bush was elected in August on her opposition to Joseph’s policies and leadership, according to The Tennessean.

Bush’s critics contend she’s racist against the black superintendent, despite the fact that Bush herself is black.

“As an African-American female and mother, I understand racism and discrimination. This is not that at all,” she said. “We have a history of a superintendent who is doing the wrong thing.”

Last week, the board opted to delay discussions on extending Joseph’s contract with the district amid the student discipline issue and other problems, including issues with his state license and lingering questions about spending and problems in the district’s human resources department.

Nashville counselor Constance Wade told WTVF the idea of keeping misbehaving students in school to continue learning is a good concept, but it doesn’t really work out well in reality.

“You’ve kind of opened up a Pandora’s box because students aren’t always feeling like they get consequences so they continue,” Wade said.

“It’s like a domino effect,” middle school teacher Sonji Collins concurred. “When one child sees that nothing is going to happen, then the rest of them will follow suit. O, well, nothing is going to happen to me because nothing happened to my classmate.”

Middle school teacher Janita Sander contends the situation is so severe, students have threatened her life on at least two occasions.

“When I brought it to the attention of the principal at the school I was at at the time, they laughed and they would not do anything with the student,” Sander said.

“That’s actually happened twice,” she continued. “I was injured in December by a child that we knew had a lot of issues. I called for help and no one would come.”

A recording of Joseph’s comments during a meeting with principals obtained by WTVF offers the superintendent’s take on the teachers’ complaints, and it’s clear he has little sympathy for their plight.

“Your teachers are sometimes like that gladiator stadium, like they want blood,” Joseph told principals, according to the news site. “They want blood and they want you to feed them. They want you to feed them raw meat.”

Source: ‘Total chaos,’ assaults, death threats: Nashville teachers slam failed restorative justice student discipline | EAGnews.org

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