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Eugene, OR: VIOLENT BEHAVIOR on the rise in schools; teachers/students threatened

Nov 17, 2018, Eugene (OR) Register Guard: Violent student behaviors on the rise, officials say Extreme student behaviors are on the rise. Just ask officials from any of the three main school districts in the Eugene-Springfield metro area. In the last three years, Bethel, Eugene and Springfield school districts - along with their counterparts across the state - have seen the frequency and intensity of violent, threatening or disruptive behaviors steadily increase, especially at the elementary level, district officials say. Teachers, educational assistants and other school staff in the three local districts have reported students throwing chairs at windows, hitting, kicking and biting staff and other students, yelling obscenities and, in some cases, breaking glass or leaving teachers with concussions or other serious injuries, according to educators and their union representatives. For example, some teachers wear protective gear on their arms to help guard against being bitten, and shin guards for when they’ll inevitably be kicked, said Tyler Whitmire, a Eugene district classified union representative from the Oregon School Employees Association. … “It’s a physically hazardous environment,” said Lima, who also is a retired teacher of 25 years. “Students are throwing furniture in the common areas, pushing, shoving and striking students and physically assaulting staff members. Because most staff have not received the required restraint training, we are precluded from stopping these incidents, we can only stand by and shield other students with our bodies.” Behavioral incidents and violence against teachers appears to be a national problem, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which has reported that 10 percent of public school teachers say they were threatened with injury by a student during the 2015-16 school year, the most recent year for which the data was compiled. … Not only do student behaviors result in injuries, they also disrupt class and keep other students from learning, education officials say. That’s because extreme behaviors often prompt room clears, during which everyone except for the student experiencing such behaviors leaves the room. Sometimes the room clears are done as a safety precaution after a student becomes so out of control or violent that teachers need to move other students to the hallway or another classroom. David Barnes, a longtime teacher at River Road/ El Camino del Rìo Elementary School, told board members during the October meeting that in the first 29 days of school there were 25 room clears in his classroom. That figure excluded the number of times other classes of children were moved into his room to clear another. … Eugene School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas, during a Nov. 7 school board meeting, said that there’s been a “spike in behavioral concerns within our school walls across the country, which we have seen the impact of in our schools here and around Oregon.” Though local educators agree that behavioral incidents have increased significantly in Eugene-Springfield schools over the last two years, it appears area schools may have trouble tracking the problem. … “Every district is dealing with this in their own way,” Gill said. … To kick off the meeting, officials asked attendees a couple of questions about classroom safety and asked them to input answers through their phones. When attendees were asked whether they felt their school have adequate resources to support safe, welcoming and inclusive classrooms, 89 percent of those who responded said no. In addition, 69 percent of those who responded to the question said they had experienced at least one room clear so far this school year. … Although Wednesday’s meeting was hosted by the state teachers union, Gill said his presence would allow him to better understand the issues educators are facing in Oregon and work with Gov. Kate Brown and the Legislature to develop potential solutions. “Parts of this are symptoms of many years of under funding our schools,” Gill said. “We have fewer resources and support for a growing issue.”

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