Earle Brown teachers push for safety changes
Monday night, teachers and staff members from Earle Brown Elementary School in Brooklyn Center packed the school board chambers to describe their work environment.

"It's always been a place that we love to come to and work, but it seems like in recent years, it's more and more difficult," said William Vitali, a fifth-grade teacher.

Difficult, he says, because of students who lose their tempers and act out in violent ways.

"These children often won't stop or listen to any adult," said Katy Leach, a third-grade teacher. "They swear, name call, threaten, throw furniture, or attack anyone in their way. In the past week, I know four teachers who have been hit by students."

According to staff members, the students have also shown a lack of respect toward school property.

"People are quitting because the bathrooms are trash," said Steven (Chip) Nelson, the head custodian. "There's pee all over the floor. There's excrement wiped all over the walls. There's just a total disrespect for our whole building."

One teacher estimated that the behavior only pertains to about five percent of the student body.

"I believe our current programs do not address the needs of this five percent, and that is why they are crying out," Leach said. "They're just children."

What they want is for the board to instill policy changes that will help them discipline the students causing the trouble.

"Students know there are no consequences, "Vitali said. "They know that, and they're taking advantage of it."

"We need more help," said Zenobia Taylor. "We need more support, and we need more of you guys there to see what's going on."

The school board played more of a listening role during the meeting, saying only that they appreciate the comments and that any policy change would take time.

Teachers hope that help comes sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, District Superintendent Mark Bonine responded to CCX News late Tuesday afternoon to address the teachers' complaints. He said the district is trying to transition from a punitive approach where students with behavioral issues are suspended or removed from school, to a more positive approach where teachers learn how to teach appropriate behavior. Bonine said that egregious behavior will still result in a suspension, but he says a suspension doesn't address the underlying problem. He says teachers need to help meet the students' needs through mental health support, mentoring and positive language.

Delane Cleveland

Nov. 14, 2017


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