ABC 6 News Exclusive: Assaults on Teachers at New Bedford HS - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

ABC 6 News Exclusive: Assaults on Teachers at New Bedford HS

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By: Liz Tufts

ltufts@abc6.com

Teachers are spending more time breaking up fights, than actually teaching and in the process they're the ones becoming the victim.

On any given day a fight breaks out in the hallways of New Bedford High School. Students battling it out against one another and teachers trying to stop the violence are getting punched, kicked and even sent to the hospital.

"We get very scared because at any point in the day we don't know what's going to happen, or what's going through those kids minds," says one teacher.

We sat down with two teachers who have been assaulted more than once. We protected their identities because they say everyday they fear for their lives.

"They are running the school, the kids are running the school," says another teacher.

ABC 6 News obtained police reports. 23 teachers assaulted last year at New Bedford High. 13 the year before. Many teachers are too afraid to press charges.

"This year, the first few months of school I saw a rapid increase in the number of assaults," says Louis St. John.

Louis St. John is the President of the New Bedford Education Association. He started an investigation of his own and he's pointing the finger at New Bedford's Superintendent Pia Durkin.

"I think this is all caused by the administration being told by the superintendent that they have to reduce the number of suspensions by 50 percent and everything exploded," says St. John.

He says teachers now being told to not discipline students if they don't have to, which He says is giving more power to the students and less to the teachers.

"These students are quickly realizing there are no consequences for their behavior and they have become empowered," adds St. John.

Superintendent Durkin wouldn't talk to us on camera, but sent a statement saying: "The data shows no increase over prior years and there has been a significant decrease since added supports have been put in place. That said, one incident is too many."

It's an on going battle and one that teachers hope they will win. If not, they fear, they won't just end up with bumps and bruises. "This is my job you are not going to take away my self respect and dignity," adds one teacher.

So you're probably wondering why these teachers don't just get a job someplace else. Many say that wouldn't solve the problem and the students would end up winning the battle.

The New Bedford City Council is now investigating the problem.

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