Special Report: Classroom chaos a cry for help, teachers say

KEZI 9 News reporter Madison Glassman sat down with teachers, students and district officials to dig deeper into what they're calling a crisis.

Posted: May 9, 2019 6:14 PM
Updated: May 9, 2019 6:44 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Teachers across the state of Oregon are demanding help, saying they're losing control of their classrooms.

"They're turning over tables," said James Squires, a teacher at Gilham Elementary.

"They're running around the classrooms, tearing down displays," said Jim Torrey, a member of the 4J school board. 

KEZI 9 News reporter Madison Glassman sat down with teachers, students and district officials to dig deeper into what they're calling a crisis.

Edyn Strickland, a Springfield student, told KEZI he used to attend Hamlin Middle School but his parents pulled him out of that school because of behavioral issues in the classroom.

"I walked out of the classroom having to call my parents every day because I didn’t feel comfortable being in the classroom," Strickland said.

It's not just a problem in Springfield. KEZI obtained documents from Eugene School District 4J that show injuries teachers sustained from experiences with students. Some of the include being "kicked, hit and punched by a student who was stabbing another student with a stick" and "being punched in the jaw by a student."

Those are just two incidents, but the documents show there have been at least 10 injuries in the classroom each month since 2015.

KEZI asked the district for records of "room clears," which is when a disruptive student becomes unsafe and the teacher is forced to remove all of the other students from the classroom. 

"We remove everyone else to prevent anything further from happening," Squires said. "If they won’t leave, we cannot physically move them."

District officials said the state currently does not keep track of room clears, but a new House bill would require Oregon to track them.

"We're seeing increased social problems, homelessness, poverty," said Tad Shannon, the president of the Eugene Education Association. "We're getting students who have increased needs and at the same time, because of decades of disinvestments in Oregon schools, we don't have enough counselors, psychologists, social workers."

Class size is also on that list of concerns. The state's most recent class size report looked at 500 classrooms across the state. According to the Tennesse Project Star, the reccomended class size is 18 students, but Oregon's most recent class size report showed some classrooms have 56 students or more.

"They act out because they don’t know how to properly ask for the attention they need," Squires said.

It's a cry for help and resources. In fact, the crisis has gotten so bad the state teachers union released a 23-page document outlining the problem.

"I really believe we need an additional adult, an additional assistant, in each of our K-school classes," Torrey said.

Shannon said that's something the district is working to do, but said because of the lack of funding, the district can't currently afford these added employees.

"If this is what's happening now, I don't know what's going to happen when I'm an adult and I raise kids of my own," Strickland said.

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