"It's Wrong, And It's Scary" – Baltimore County Teachers "Frightened" By Spike In Violence

According to Project Baltimore, two Baltimore County Public School teachers have stepped forward and sounded the alarm regarding how the school system’s administrators have enacted policies that made schools appear safer on paper — however, this epic fail has led to a massive increase in violence among students and teachers.

Baltimore County Teachers: Culture of Leniency Leading to Violence. (Source: Fox Baltimore) 

“I have been kicked. I have been punched. I have been thrown up against lockers,” stated one of the teachers.

“I’ve been spit on. A lot of chair throwing, turning over desks, screaming, running around the classroom,” added the other.

These two Baltimore County Public School teachers contacted Project Baltimore with a terrifying message:

“What I’m seeing in the schools, it’s wrong and it’s scary. It’s frightening,” collectively stated the pair in a statement to Project Baltimore.

Both educators spoke on condition of anonymity because of the fear of losing their jobs. However, as Project Baltimore stated: “they [teachers] can no longer remain silent – especially after watching recent Fox45 reports detailing escalating violence in public schools.”

Chris Papst, who is the lead reporter for Project Baltimore’s ongoing investigation into Baltimore area public schools, said,”County teachers say it’s not just students anymore who are victims of violence and bullying.”

One of the educators told Papst in an interview, “If we don’t do anything about it and we don’t speak out now and try and solve the problem, then we are ultimately becoming part of the problem.”

Screen grab of Chris Papst interview with the two educators. (Source: Fox Baltimore) 

More than a decade ago, these teachers explained how the school system operated in a much different manner. There were severe consequences for students who punched, kicked, or even threw a desk at a teacher. That student would be either suspended, expelled, and or arrested and charged as a minor. However, a few years ago, the school system’s administrators, who could have wanted more federal funding — decided to reduce disciplinary action among students to alter reality and make it seem like the school system was, in fact, improving.

Project Baltimore details how this deceptive technique produced a culture of leniency, which means accountability among students evaporated.

Also, it seems, there could have been pressure from the Maryland State Board of Education to reduce suspensions among the students of color and those with disabilities. Project Baltimore believes the push started sometime shortly before the 2008 financial crisis.

Papst’s and his team of journalists uncovered ten years of in-school and out-of-school suspension data. In 2007, Maryland had 181,578 suspensions. By 2017, it plummeted to 76,719.

Baltimore County Teachers: Culture of Leniency Leading to Violence. (Source: Fox Baltimore) 

The artificial reduction of suspensions even caught the eye of Washington, DC. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who came to Baltimore in 2014 to support the school system’s achievement and, of course, promote her agenda called Promise Program,” which encouraged school systems to reduce disciplinary action in favor of other forms of interventions, such as counseling. As Project Baltimore commented, “the idea was celebrated.”

“Just over last year, we decreased our suspensions by 24 percent,” Tisha Edwards, Interim Baltimore City Schools CEO, told Fox Baltimore in 2014.

“Suspension is not the answer,” said Antonio Hurt, who was Principal of Frederick Douglass High School during Duncan’s visit. “What are the alternatives that you put in place? What are the programs you put in place for young people?”

What it seems like, is that Baltimore City/County Public Schools could have operated a pilot program of testing the reactionary consequences of reducing disciplinary action for troubled students. After a near decade of failure, these teachers have told Project Baltimore that this new approach to discipline has failed.

“There’s no support, morale is down. You begin to not care anymore. Violence in the classroom. Disrespect in the classroom. Students having the run of the school. No fear anymore of being disciplined or of consequences.”

“I was told specifically by my administration when I came to them about fear of being hit by a child that ‘that’s just what kids do. Kids hit. Kids kick,’” recalled one of the teachers. “We can’t do anything because you can’t put your hands on the children. So, if the children are wailing on you, all you can do is put your hands up to defend yourself but you cannot restrain the child in any way.”

“I understand that every child has a right to learn but there is no right to learn because you’re taking so much of the learning away to deal with discipline on a daily basis,” concluded the teachers.

Project Baltimore noted that Baltimore County Schools refused an interview with Fox Baltimore to discuss its failed policies that have left the school system in disarray, with violence surging across some of the schools in the district. Mychael Dickerson, Chief of Staff for Baltimore County Public Schools issued this statement to Project Baltimore:

“Just so you know, you are making a broad and general statement by saying these are the programs ‘teachers say aren’t working.’ In other words, a few teachers do not represent the majority of teachers in the system (we have more than 9,000) or those who do believe the programs are working. I certainly hope your story does not present a one-sided view of this based on a couple of teachers.

In fact, these character education programs were first introduced by principals and teachers in several of our schools and have been expanded as school administrators shared their outcomes with their colleagues who then worked with their own staffs to collaboratively agree to use these programs. These characters education programs were not mandated by central office but grew from our schools. We support schools using them but every school community is unique and we trust principals to work with their teams to do what’s best in their buildings. Systemically, we have policies and rules that outline expected behaviors and consequences for student and staff. We provide support and professional development for schools regardless of what programs they use but you should not suggest that there is a mandate from central office that schools use a particular program. I also hope there is not a suggestion that mentoring does not work. We have seen otherwise as evidenced by various programs across the system.

Ultimately, we want staff to do what’s best for children and to develop relationships with them. Our dedicated teachers and staff know the best way to curb discipline is to develop relationships with students. The vast and overwhelming majority of our teachers and principals do this on a daily basis. Finally, I believe it is hyperbolic to say there is a violent atmosphere in our schools. If you and your team would visit and cover some of the positive programs and activities we send you weekly in press releases, you would see this in action for yourselves.”