Violence has become the norm in classrooms across Minnesota as teachers are discouraged from speaking out on the issue, former teacher Debbie York told Kendall and Sheila Qualls on this week’s episode of Fully Charged.
York is the co-founder of the Minnesota Safe Schools Movement. She calls herself an “accidental activist.”
York shared her own experience with classroom violence that ultimately resulted in her leaving the profession.
“About 10 years ago I was in my classroom and I got assaulted by a student, such that I was put on a restraining order for the rest of the year because when the parents called to find out what actually happened I told the truth,” she said.
York was attacked by an 85-pound first-grader who had been removed from Minneapolis Public Schools because of his behavior.
The student, a 10-year-old Somali boy, had a history of violence in the classroom, which York was not aware of when he entered her classroom.
“By the time I got assaulted, over half the class had been harmed in one way or another by this student,” she said.
Following the incident, York said she was put on a leave of absence and branded a “racist of sorts for telling the truth” about the incident.
“I ended up with three surgeries and pretty much had to leave my position and teaching was my life,” she said.
She said she was silenced and not allowed to talk about her experience. Because of this, she created a movement to help teachers stay safe in the classroom.
York said every district in the state has policies in place to protect teachers, but they are not being implemented.
“Teachers have been instructed to withhold discipline for students of color in the name of diversity,” she said, noting that withholding discipline is not helping kids.
“Research shows that in essence we’re almost failing those kids of color … by not giving them the intervention they need on a one-to-one basis. If you have a violent student, they’re pushed right back into the classroom. That’s not good for that kid and that’s not good for all the other kids,” York said.
“Physical harm has become the norm in schools,” she added. “Teachers need to know they have a right to be safe.”