BUFFALO, NY – 2 On Your Side is looking into a serious, ongoing issue in Buffalo Public Schools: students verbally abusing teachers.
Teachers themselves have told the district the issue is real, at school and after school.
Profanity, insulting, degrading – that’s just some of the verbal abuse teachers say they often experience. Where? In at least 20 schools in the district.
For example, at the D’Youville Porter School on Niagara Street, 83-percent of teachers agreed students verbally abuse teachers often. At School 18, that number was at 97-percent. And at North Park Academy, 100-percent, every teacher says students verbally abuse teachers.
“The number one concern of our teachers that I hear is the disruptive behavior of students in the building, discipline in some schools the teachers feel is out of control,” said Phil Rumore, President of Buffalo Teachers Federation.
The problem of widespread verbal abuse of teachers can be found in what are called school climate reports -surveys that students, teachers and non-instructional staff filled out in the fall semester at every Buffalo Public school – on issues from physical safety to cleanliness of schools.
And you’re hearing about this issue now, because it took time for us to get the results. 2 On Your Side had to file a Freedom of Information request, which resulted in hundreds of pages of school climate report data.
And, it took even more time to get the district to respond to our question: What is the district doing about the problem?
After weeks of stalling, 2 On Your Side’s Jeff Preval went to a school board meeting asking questions.
“I don’t know that, that’s news to me,” said school board president Barbara Nevergold when we asked if student verbal abuse was out of control.
Preval also spoke to district spokesperson Elena Cala, who told him that a district official would be at the meeting to answer our questions, but after we waited for over a half hour, she never showed up.
Rumore says disruptive students aren’t getting the help they need.
“If a student continues to insult teachers, fight, get into trouble, what we need to have is enough school counselors, psychologists and social workers to work with that kid and find out what’s going on, that’s not being done because the district doesn’t have the resources,” Rumore said.
Are there more teachers maybe leaving certain schools or leaving education in general or telling you, ‘hey Phil Rumore, I can’t do this anymore?'” we asked.
“Well, they’re not saying I can’t do this anymore they’re asking for help, there’s a cry out for help right now,” he said.
Doing school climate reports was an idea the state education department came up with in 2014 following the Sandy Hook massacre, to learn more about what’s happening in schools.
Buffalo is one of a few districts in WNY doing school climate reports. We are awaiting a full list of the districts from the state Education Department.
This is something the state would like to see all school districts do to learn more about the issues in their districts.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the district refused to answer our questions about what’s being done to address student verbal abuse of teachers and instead says that parents should be reminded to make sure their kids respect teachers and staff.