Bristol Elementary teachers raise concerns about 'unsafe conditions'
BRISTOL — A group of Bristol Elementary School teachers banded together to raise concerns about safety issues at the school during Tuesday night's MAUSD board meeting in Bristol.
Teachers spoke of incidents in recent days and weeks when "children were hiding and crying in fear and staff members were injured. Hallways were cleared and students and staff remained in the learning space they were in with the doors locked."
They referred to the school as a "place of unrest" where "a general sense of helplessness and fear has permeated our school."
The full statement, which was shared with the Independent earlier today, is included below.
Sarah Mangini, co-vice president of the Mount Abraham Education Association, also made a public statement to the school board Tuesday night, in which she detailed some of the dangers and damage at the school.
Look for the full story in Thursday's paper.
STATEMENT BY BRISTOL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STAFF
Date: October 12, 2021
To: MAUSD Board Members
From: Bristol Elementary School Staff
Re: Failure to Ensure Safety at Bristol Elementary School
My name is Andrea Murnane and I am a Second Grade Teacher at Bristol Elementary School. I am speaking to you this evening on behalf of BES teachers and staff and the Mount Abraham Education Association to share the dire safety issues at BES and ask that you take swift action to address them. The staff at BES are here united together to say that our school is not safe. Existing policies have repeatedly put students and staff in harm’s way. The status quo is simply not sustainable.
We are here before you because our prior, repeated efforts to address these critical safety concerns at lower levels have so far been unsuccessful. There is a process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement for addressing work-related issues and we believe strongly in that process. We have attempted to use that process to address the unsafe conditions that students and staff are experiencing in our school. In this instance, that process is simply not timely and responsive enough to deal with the immediacy and severity of our safety concerns.
Last Thursday, October 7, the safety situation at BES became so volatile that two classrooms were relocated to alternate workspaces, and one classroom was severely damaged. During these incidents, children were hiding and crying in fear and staff members were injured. Hallways were cleared and students and staff remained in the learning space they were in with the doors locked.
Later that same day the staff at BES spoke with Superintendent Reen for over an hour expressing our concerns and fears. Many staff members remained at school that evening until 7:00 p.m. helping a teacher reassemble her classroom.
The following day, Friday, October 8th, there were at least seven “Secure the Hallway” calls from the office, in which staff and students were instructed to immediately enter classrooms and lock their doors.
In this school year, students are unsafe, the staff is unsafe, learning environments and learning tools have been damaged, classes are displaced from their room to alternative – and inadequate -- workplaces, learning for all grade levels has been disrupted, student work is ripped from the hallway walls and a general sense of helplessness and fear has permeated our school.
We are strong supporters of trauma-informed interventions for addressing students in crisis, including those exhibiting violent and destructive behavior. However, in order for these practices to be effective and safe for students and staff, they must be accompanied by adequate staffing, training, resources and appropriate procedures for their implementation.
Therefore, we are asking you to take immediate steps to address this situation. Specifically, we are asking for you to implement the following remedies and policies:
1. Provide for the safe removal of students who endanger the safety of themselves, other students or staff to an alternative and safe workplace until their behavior has been assessed by a professional mental health crisis team (ACCESS), parents/guardians have been contacted, a meeting with parents has been scheduled, the classroom teacher and staff members have been apprised of the situation and the child has remained calm, safe and in control for 24 hours after the episode.
2. Provide 1:1 behavioral support for students who endanger the safety of staff or students at BES.
3. Provide a clear plan for immediate response in situations in which a student endangers the safety of staff or students.
4. Ensure that all staff who work with students who have displayed unsafe behavior are made fully aware of the behavior plan and kept up to date on any changes.
5. Ensure that the classroom teacher is involved and given voice in the development and implementation of the behavior plan.
6. Ensure that proper procedures are implemented to bring an end to violence so that all students can learn in a safe and appropriate environment.
7. Hire a licensed mental health professional to assist with the current situation, provide training to staff and be available to help and consult with the staff at BES.
Our school has become a place of unrest when it should be a safe haven, a trusted place where children and adults learn and grow. We need your help. We ask that you take immediate action on this serious and dangerous situation.