County School Board member Rhonda Thurman said Monday that teachers are quitting the county schools because they face attacks from unruly students and they don't get backing from the administration.
Supt. Bryan Johnson said, "We absolutely have challenges," but he said he puts his focus on academic improvement. He said a disciplinary committee meeting took two hours, and he would like to "spend two hours on academic improvement."
Ms. Thurman shot back that if there were controls on the five percent of students who disrupt class that there would be a much better learning experience for the 95 percent of well-behaved students.
Officials said a new 38-page disciplinary code did not change any punishments, but sought to have more consistent discipline. It also is meant to capture more information about each offense and compile the overall date.
Officials said the system "has already been flagged by the Office of Civil Rights" on discipline patterns.
Board member Karitsa Mosley said the criticism was focused on students from poorer schools. She said, "It's browbeating the children. It's the negativity that gets all the attention."
Board member Joe Smith questioned reports in the news media about discipline in the schools and said the administration should publicly debunk any untrue report. He said, "All these terrible things being said and we're silent about it. If it's wrong (what is written and reported), then we ought to confront the media."
Supt. Johnson said, "I just stay focused on the children and what we're trying to accomplish."
Ms. Thurman said, "I'm not going to call liars the teachers who call me crying and say they are going to leave and never come back again."
She told Dr. Johnson that "it's not a budget problem. It's not a taxpayer problem. I'm not going to blame it on not having enough money." She said current administrators should be able to properly back teachers.
Board member Tiffanie Robinson also said she had received "a number of calls that are really alarming" about classroom discipline problems. "I get calls from teachers who are frantic."
Steve Highlander, another board member, said, "When we have students (confronting) teachers, and they are only out of school one day, then that's a problem."
He said, "I'm concerned about the retention of teachers, and I'm concerned that they are not being supported. A student who is cursing a teacher is disrupting the whole educational process."
Tucker McClendon said attacks on teachers had been going on in the county schools for years. He said when he was in high school he saw a teacher cursed, another punched, and another get his rotator cuff messed up by a student.
Ms. Thurman said, "If this has been going on for years, then I say shame on us."