The teachers at Haven Middle School are not walking out to demonstrate their concern about student discipline and behavior problems.
Rather, they’re walking in.
For the second week in a row, the educators at Haven are meeting in the school parking lot on Green Bay Road before classes begin in the morning. Then, rather than going inside individually as usual, they’re lining up, walking around the building in a group, and then all going in together.
The “walk-in” was prompted by two incidents earlier this month on the same day, where students got into fights and police had to be called.
In one incident, a staff member was accidentally knocked over by the scuffling students, and had to be taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
These two cases are just the most recent in what even Superintendent Devon Horton acknowledges as a “long-standing” problem at Haven.
In a community message last week, Horton said a small percentage of Haven students are responsible for “ongoing climate and culture issues” in the 800-plus-student building.
He also cited a series of steps to improve behavior, such as bringing on two new counselors, eight hall monitors, and another assistant principal at Haven. Horton also said more Haven staff members will be trained in Crisis Prevention Intervention, a method of defusing conflict before it turns physical.
Discipline issues have been highlighted by teachers earlier this school year as well.
In the fall, about fifty educators attended a Board of Education meeting, where their union president, Maria Barroso, spoke of teachers being “traumatized by students who are swearing or threatening them.”
Speaking of District 65 in general, and not Haven, Barroso also said that fights among students “are escalating and getting out of control.”
Student behavior problems were just one issue highlighted by the union, where the phrase “toxic work environment” was used, and the district administration was criticized.
The union-management relationship apparently improved over time, because when the school board approved construction of a 5th Ward school last month, Barroso said the ongoing study process led to DEC and the superintendent making “great strides” on a future partnership.
Now, however, it’s possible that discipline issues at Haven could become another flashpoint between the teachers and the administration.
While safety at Haven is not officially on Monday night’s Board of Education agenda, it would not be a surprise if the issue comes up.