A recent incident where a teacher used a broom to break up a violent fight between students has put a renewed focus on safety conditions in Detroit’s lowest-performing schools.
The Pershing High School teacher was fired this week after a cell phone video surfaced of her hitting students with a broom in an attempt to stop their classroom brawl. According to Detroit outlet WJBK-TV, teachers are instructed to call for help on a walkie-talkie during such incidents, but the teacher’s walkie-talkie device reportedly was not working at the time.
Footage of the incident can be found below:
Pershing High School is part of the Education Achievement Authority, Michigan’s statewide district for the lowest-performing schools. Teachers in the EAA are not unionized.
The educator shown in the video was fired for violating the district’s corporal punishment provision, but she will be given an opportunity to appeal her termination before the EAA Board of Directors, reports WJBK. The students involved in the fight were each given a 10-day suspension.
Controversy has plagued EAA schools since the district's inception in 2011. Documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act and subsequently posted on the website Inside The EAA, show that the district has a declining enrollment rate, numerous student safety issues and a chaotic financial situation. According to the site, “within seven months, the EAA has reported over 5,000 discipline-related infractions, including 63 drug possessions, 33 gun possessions, and 22 physical assaults against staff.”
In a conversation with WWJ Newsradio 950, Detroit teacher Jenna Slack described the district’s schools as “unsafe.”
“The EAA has been so poorly managed from day one,” said Slack, who teaches at Law Middle School, “that they not only don’t have the resources to educate these children, they don’t have the resources to keep them safe.”
The EAA responded to the interview, saying that the district “seeks to promote a safe environment for its students and staff, and accordingly, does not, and will not tolerate any inappropriate conduct.”
Some parents have come to the defense of the terminated Pershing teacher, saying she had no choice but to break up the fight with the broom.
“I feel like if I was there, I would have done the same thing trying to break them up. ... I don’t think she should lose her job or have charges brought against her,” said Natalie Tyson, according to the Detroit Free Press. “What else could she do? Those guys were kind of big, and they were tearing up the classroom.”
Others have said the educator deserves her punishment.
“She should have never grabbed the broom. She could have just grabbed the security guard,” Pershing High School senior Bernard Barton III told the outlet. “She should have gotten charged for it.”