Akron Schoolteachers Prepare to Strike over Violent Student Behavior

After many allegations of campus violence, Akron Public School teachers declared they would strike mere days after kids are expected to return from winter break. According to a Thursday news release, safety was one of their primary concerns.

The union scheduled the strike to begin on January 9th, 2023, while students return to classrooms on January 6th, 2023. Following incidents of aggressive behavior by kids, Akron Educational Association (AEA) union members asserted that school safety was one of their main concerns. The AEA represents around 2,800 licensed teachers and staff members, with about 20,000 students in the district.

Akron Public Schools has garnered attention for kids participating in increasing violent incidents.

Two students allegedly had guns on school property earlier this month, while two others were stabbed in separate incidents. A bomb threat locked down at Jennings CLC Middle School, and fourteen police cruisers arrived at a large fight at Ellet CLC High School.

According to reports, teachers are leaving their jobs at record rates.

“Weeks of unparalleled fighting are now daily occurrence within Akron school buildings, yet the superintendent and the board continue to want to water down the definition of assault and force students, teachers, parents, and families to endure more violence, disorder, and disruption to the education of the majority of Akron students,” the news release states.

The AEA blasted the district administration for refusing to participate in a state-funded program that provided $58 million for school safety.

“AEA is outraged that Akron Public Schools is spending $3.5 million which could have been used to attract and retain high-quality teachers when Governor DeWine’s safe school’s grant would have covered 100% of the $3.5 million which Akron Public Schools is now spending,” the news release continues.

Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan stated the incidents saying that public safety is and will continue to be the top priority of his administration.

“I am aware of the incidents which occurred at several Akron Public schools and the concerns expressed by parents, teachers, and students alike about safety in their classrooms. I understand the need for investment into public safety and specifically for our youth. Every student deserves a safe learning environment as a former educator myself I am incredibly supportive of our Akron Public Schools and all of our outstanding educators,” Horrigan said.

According to Akron Public Schools chief of security Don Zesiger, Akron must address violence prevention in its neighborhoods because it’s pouring into the school district.

“As a community, too, we must continue this discussion because violence is prevalent now in our neighborhoods and it is flowing into our schools. We simply cannot continue on this course,” Zesiger said.

Regarding disciplinary action, the district has an expulsion review committee comprised of administrators and teachers.

According to Pat Shipe, the president of AEA, 63 assaults against teachers have been reported this school year. Data shows that the district held 249 disciplinary hearings in the first quarter, with five students expelled. Some 132 students received various disciplinary actions, including alternatives to expulsion, alternative placement, interim alternative placement, and transfer to another school, and the district returned 112 students to their schools.

The district has also been discussing additional security upgrades.

Teachers have been working under a contract that expired on June 30th, 2022, after the union and the administration failed to reach contract agreements after negotiations started in April. They declared an impasse in May.

Teacher safety, student behavior, and compensation are among the issues that have proven to be contentious, according to union leadership and negotiating documents.

“Akron Public Schools respects and values its teachers and the work they do for children every day. We know that if we keep negotiating, we can reach an agreement in the best interests of Akron educators, students, parents, and our community. APS is prepared to stay at the table day in and day out to resolve this situation and keep children learning. We hope the Akron Education Association shares this commitment with us,” Akron Public Schools director of marketing and communications Mark Williamson said.

The union has now made it clear that there are 10 days to negotiate, or they will go on strike. Akron teachers have not gone on strike since 1989.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Teacher” by Tima Miroshnichenko.

 

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