Detroit, Education, Teachers — May 12, 2014 at 10:37 am

UPDATED: Who gets held responsible when kids violently fight in schools? – The EAA vs. public schools


Last week, a vicious fight broke out between two students at the Education Achievement Authority’s Pershing High School. With a non-functional walkie-talkie and no other adults around to help, teacher Tiffani Eaton had to act fast as the two brawling boys thrashed around the room, punching each other, and knocking over desks. She grabbed a broom handle and whacked one of the boys on the back with it, screaming for them to stop.

For her troubles, she has been fired. The two students were suspended; one for ten days and the other for three. The Michigan Citizen reports that one of the students wasn’t even supposed to have been in school since he had been suspended. The student had been “kicked out numerous times” and had been readmitted by the Pershing High principal without the required readmission hearing.

Mitch Albom at the Detroit Free Press nails it in a must-read op-ed:

Eaton grabbed the first thing she could, a broom, and swatted the back of the young man on top, several times, screaming at him to get off the other student. They separated. Soon after, the fight broke up.

If I stop right there, many of you would give this woman a medal.

Instead, she was fired — fired? — because she violated the school’s corporal punishment rule.

It is hard to write that without gagging. […]

[H]er radio didn’t function and the security person assigned outside her classroom was away on another problem. How much more stacked could the deck be?

That video is the worst piece of advertising Detroit schools could get. Yet amazingly, Eaton only wants her job back. Pershing should throw rose petals at her feet. Instead, the protocol has her being investigated for — dear God — child abuse.

“I want to continue teaching,” she lamented. “It’s frustrating to know that the career path I had chosen for my life, my passion, might end prematurely.”

It shouldn’t. This is a travesty. The students who don’t respect school get to stay in it, while the teacher who cares is thrown out.

Maybe that’s Detroit’s “new math.”

In April, a similar incident occurred at Livonia’s Churchill High School. Two teens were beating the crap out of each other and, again, furniture went flying as the two brawled. It took three male adults to stop the fight. One of them, teacher David Hebestreit, hit his head on the floor when one of the students knocked him down. He suffered a lower back fracture.

In that instance, the students were arrested and the teachers were not accused of “child abuse” for doing what they had to in stopping the violence.

This is the difference between a public school that supports its teachers who have protection from union representation and the EAA school district. In EAA schools, the teachers are thrown under the bus. It’s hard not to look at this situation as anything but an effort by EAA administrators to be seen as not tolerating abuse of students in the wake of accusations that administrators were doing so to discipline them. They are making a scapegoat out of Tiffani Eaton in order to deflect criticism of school administrators.

Here’s video of Livonia Public Schools’ Churchill High School fight:

Here’s video of the fight at the EAA’s Pershing High School:

They look remarkably similar except that, at Pershing, it was a lone teacher with no resources but her own wits and a broom handle. She ended up fired. At Churchill, it took three large men to stop the fight. One of them ended up injured and they still have their jobs.

There is one thing worth noting in this story. Tiffani Eaton has a chance to plead her case before the EAA Board of Directors when they meet next month on June 17th. That meeting is their first since March and only the second since last December since they have cancelled numerous meetings in the interim. Keep in mind that most of the allegations of serious improprieties at the EAA, including my own interviews with nearly two dozen EAA teachers and administrators, happened in this same time frame.

Apparently, however, at least in the minds of the EAA Board, things are going so swimmingly well at the EAA that they simply haven’t had anything to discuss.

Now that they have a teacher to scapegoat, they’ll finally have something to talk about after all.

UPDATE: You aren’t going to believe this. Hell, I don’t believe this. But I TOTALLY agree with Nolan Finley and his latest op-ed “Teachers need a shield law”:

Who’s in charge of today’s schools is anyone’s guess. I suspect it isn’t the teachers, through no fault of their own.

We’ve filled their classrooms with under-parented and over-empowered brats fully versed in their rights, who respect nothing and fear no one. We expect teachers not only to turn them into scholars with little or no help from home, but also to keep them from killing each other. […]

State lawmakers should consider a stand-your-ground law for teachers. They should be shielded from prosecution and firing for actions they take in response to violent classroom outbreaks.

Teachers should be able to protect themselves and their students by any means available, even if that’s a broom handle.

The videos reveal the high level of chaos and confusion in the classrooms during the fights. Teachers aren’t trained to deal with that, and they shouldn’t have to.

If we’re going to place them in front of students who’d be better served in jail cells than school desks, then at least we should stand behind them.

Amen, Brother Finley. Amen.

NOTE: I have removed a reference to problems Pershing High School Principal Gregory King had at a previous job since they don’t appear to have any relevance to this story. I have also updated this story HERE with information that shows that Principal King was under a gag order and not permitted to do what most of us would see as “the right thing” in this instance.