Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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2 teachers acted violently, Fla. district says

The school board in Jacksonville, Fla., has suspended three teachers, two of them for violent misconduct in the presence of students, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The Duval County School Board concluded, after an investigation, that the two teachers accused of violent misconduct had thrown tables or chairs at students, used profanity around them, or flipped them off. The board voted on April 7 to suspend the teachers, but some parents expressed a belief that the teachers should have been dismissed.

The third teacher was accused of abusing unpaid-leave time and was punished with a 15-day suspension without pay.

Lenora Peterson-Cook, a second-grade teacher at Cedar Hills Elementary, repeatedly used profanity in front of students, the district charged. She admitted to using profanity but thought her remarks were inaudible to nearby students. She also admitted to flipping off students.

Ms Peterson-Cook was suspended for 30 days without pay for this inappropriate behavior.

James Garren, an art teacher at Whitehouse Elementary, was also suspended for 30 days without pay. He was accused of pushing a table into a student. He claimed he pushed the table out of the way to get to the student, who was acting out, but he didn’t think the table had hit her.

But the student’s mother told the board that Mr Garren should have been fired for hurting her daughter’s leg and causing a bruise.

He was also accused of yelling at a student too close to his face and of kicking and throwing chairs at students. Two students were allegedly hit by chairs in that incident.

A school district investigator talked with several students before reaching any conclusions in these cases. For Mr Garren, 15 fifth-grade students were interviewed; in Ms Peterson-Cook’s case, 12 students were interviewed, and two parents also complained.

Editorial

In many cases, students act out and frustrate teachers. Today, more than years ago, students know that zero-tolerance policies have vanished and they can get away with much more than they used to. But even when students think they rule the roost, they don’t. Teachers can’t lose control of their emotions or their actions—or the rest of their classrooms.

We believe the board did the right thing in disciplining and not firing the two teachers who showed violent tendencies in the presence of students. We’re also glad that the worst damage that seems to have been done is a bruise on one student’s leg. The suspensions, we hope, will deter other teachers from acting violently in the presence of students. We hope this action will remind our good teachers to watch their own language and their own conduct, especially when they’re in school.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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