St. Paul teacher on student behavior: ‘I’ve never seen it so bad’

After walking off the job weeks ago at Washington Technology Magnet School, Ringaman described a toxic environment, absent of any real consequences for kids who cause trouble.

Bruce Ringaman has been a teacher in the St. Paul school district for 25 years. He told Alpha News he has never seen student behavior this bad. (Alpha News)

Bruce Ringaman has been a teacher in the St. Paul school district for 25 years. He told Alpha News he has never seen student behavior this bad.

“Any kid who would have threatened the teacher would have been out that day, no questions asked,” he said, reflecting on the past.

After walking off the job weeks ago at Washington Technology Magnet School, Ringaman described a toxic environment, absent of any real consequences for kids who cause trouble.

He’s been an eighth-grade math teacher at the school for the last five years.

“When a kid can tell a principal to F off, nobody has anything anymore. What I say as a classroom teacher doesn’t matter. What the behavioral specialists say in the hallway doesn’t matter. What the security guard says doesn’t matter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. If you want to just take your anger out on teachers in St. Paul schools, you’re welcome to do that.”

He detailed his own disturbing experiences in a letter sent to staff in September.

With a subject line of “Stop the Madness,” it reads:

“Fridays and breaks can never come soon enough for me this year. I’ve always been able to make it to MEA without needing time off to recover, but not this year. This year I feel like I’ve been run over by a train every day I leave. This week I politely asked a student, that wasn’t supposed to be in my room, to go to her class. This was four minutes after the bell had rung. Her response, ‘Quit talking to me. Get out of my space.’ I was 3-4 feet away. I then calmly repeated that she needed to leave, and she responded with, ‘Shut the fuck up you bitch ass ho.’”

Ringaman said some teachers are forced into daily confrontations.

“First of all, there are eight to 15 kids in the hall all day. This happened last year. Certain kids never went to class, the whole year,” Ringaman said.

He blames policy changes made years ago by the district that were intended to provide due process to students who act out.

He said he tried to make the point to a colleague about why this approach is flawed.

“You mean to tell me if a coworker of yours threatens to kick your ass that they would be allowed to work the rest of the day until the investigation process played out? And she’s like ‘no.’ And I said, ‘Then why are you doing that with students? Are you telling me you don’t trust me as a teacher that a student actually said I want to beat you up?’ If you don’t trust me, then that’s an issue” he said.

“I would say 80 to 90% of the kids are perfect. They can do school,” Ringaman added.

However, he said nobody is learning because of this.

“I’m taking time out to address these kids. Sometimes I have to go look for help. I can’t teach with all the conversations in class. I’ve taken the approach that I’m going to teach the kids who are here to learn. Many teachers take that approach,” Ringaman said.

The last straw happened a few weeks ago when he asked a student in the hallway who was supposed to be in class to keep it down.

Ringaman said the student responded by cursing and claiming he “wished he could fight teachers.”

“I emailed my principal and I said either this kid goes home or I’m leaving today,” he said.

Ringaman said his concerns were essentially ignored and the student was allowed to stay.

“They stay in school. ‘Shut the fuck up you bitch as ho.’ They stay in school,” he said again to make his point.

A St. Paul Public Schools administrative building. (Alpha News)

He’s not alone. Alpha News reviewed other emails from teachers fearing for their own safety and the safety of their students at the same school.

St. Paul Public Schools released this statement to Alpha News:

“While the district cannot comment on individual student and/or personnel matters, Saint Paul Public Schools strives to create welcoming schools where every student is seen, known and valued. There are rights students are guaranteed when they are at school as well as responsibilities that accompany those rights. Both are summarized in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.
In addition, the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook outlines the work SPPS is doing to build a positive school culture and hold students accountable for behavior that is not appropriate.”

Ringaman’s complaints appear to be considered “level-three” violations, which can result in a dismissal from school.

The St. Paul district has lost nearly 20% of its enrollment in the last 10 years. Ringaman worries stories like his will only make matters worse. He’s on a leave of absence and still deciding what he’ll do next.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen and has happened: Teachers will leave. I mean, there’s only so much abuse a person can take. This is an abusive relationship. There’s only so much a person can take,” he said.

This all leads back to that email from September, which went on to say:

“You think we have a teacher shortage now? Who in their right mind would choose to teach under these conditions? We have two 6th grade math openings that weren’t there at the beginning of the year. Who believes we will find teachers that will fill those openings? Stop the madness, quit being afraid of lawsuits and begin giving immediate consequences. Speaking of lawsuits, the one that will bring change is a class action suit demonstrating how this behavior is stealing education from those that want to learn. But it shouldn’t have to come to that. Implement changes that have been proven to be effective at getting behaviors under control. The pendulum has swung WAY TOO far to where it appears we are making excuses as to why students can’t control their behaviors. We know that kids need boundaries and consequences. The question is do we have the courage to put them in place? I’m willing to put my job on the line and risk my pension. I’d rather live poor than put up with this BS! Go ahead and discipline me because that’s the easy thing to do. Discipline those that speak the truth and let the chaos continue. That takes ZERO courage.”

Ringaman was in the news before when he says he was smeared by the media after a Como Park parent made up allegations of racism to have him fired. He addressed this in a column at the time for the Pioneer Press.

He was transferred to Washington Technology Magnet School after the incident.

“I hate to say this but there’s as much evidence that I did something wrong there as Trump colluded with Russia,” he said. “The environment was there that if you went on record saying you voted for Trump, something would happen, and if I voted for Clinton, I would still be a teacher at Como. Guaranteed.”


Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.