Baltimore Teachers Union wants to review student conduct code after attacks on teacher, cafeteria worker

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Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters on North Avenue. Photo by Eli Pousson/Baltimore Heritage, via Flickr.

After two more alleged assaults of employees or teachers by students at Baltimore schools, the Baltimore Teachers Union plans to form its own task force to look at the school district’s code of conduct, in hopes of implementing a remedy in the new year.

The union put out a statement today, one day after video surfaced of students appearing to beat up a cafeteria worker at National Academy Foundation School, roughly a block west of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and on the same day that a female teacher at Poly was reportedly assaulted by a male student in her classroom.

“It is inexcusable that teachers and paraprofessionals, school administration and staff keep being assaulted by students who are in desperate need of help,” said BTU president Marietta English in a statement. “Our school workers need provisions in place to help protect them when things like this happen.”

The union is assembling a task force on school safety to “examine Baltimore City Public School’s Code of Conduct in order to improve it,” and develop a plan to be put in place by the end of January 2019.

The group will meet for the first time on Dec. 14, and include reps from unions, City Schools and school police, the Maryland State Department of Education and the ACLU, as well as elected officials, parent groups, clergy, teachers and paraprofessionals. The City Union of Baltimore and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were also invited, according to a spokeswoman for the teachers union.

English added in her statement: “We must act now to ensure that everyone who works in our schools is able to do what it is they were hired to do. Teach.”

In a statement, City Schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster said district staff will be working with the task force “to promote positive behavior among our students and ensure safety for our staff and all members of our school communities.”

She noted that while disciplinary responses for altercations are included in the code of conduct, “the priority must be to manage and resolve conflict before it escalates to physical confrontation.” The school system already offers programs in schools for restorative practices, social-emotional learning and conflict de-escalation, mediation and resolution, she said.

In the incident involving the cafeteria worker, first reported by Fox 45 as her being “jumped” by two students, the woman was hospitalized with a broken arm and wrist and bruises to her forehead, her sister told the station. By her account, they assaulted her after she told two girls they could not have any milk without also having the food the cafeteria was serving.

According to the school system’s code of conduct, “physically attacking an employee of City Schools or other adult, including intentionally striking a staff member who is intervening in a fight or other disruptive activity” from third grade on up warrants up to a level five punishment, which can include expulsion.

That altercation happened roughly two weeks after another viral incident, in which a student at Frederick Douglass High School punched her chemistry teacher, Camille Hinmon, who had been battling cancer and recently returned to work after having an operation.

The teachers union called for the student to be removed from Douglass High. In an interview with WJZ, Hinmon said she she was hoping for a “positive outcome” for her pupil, and that she had since forgiven her.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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