Both educators, English Language Arts teacher and a science teacher, remain on administrative leave and could lose their jobs after school cameras and students’ cellphone footage showed them encouraging two sixth-grade students to fight during a class change. The school district released a statement and said that it was following up on student allegations that the teachers reportedly encouraged the two students to fight. The Education Association released a statement and said it is extremely disappointed in the district’s decision to portray these educators in the manner they apparently have before their personnel cases have been resolved.
This incident occurred right after 2 p.m. on May 9, 2022 at the Southview Middle School. The L0rain City Schools reportedly began its investigation on May 11 after the parent of a student who captured the fight on cell phone video called school officials and informed them of the recording, The Morning Journal reports. Both educators, later identified as Amanda Wilt, an English Language Arts teacher, and David Contreras, a science teacher, were placed on paid administrative leave. On Wednesday, the school officials said that security cameras and students’ cellphone footage showed both educators encouraging two sixth-grade boys to fight during a class change.
According to LCS, the school district was following up on student allegations that the pair encouraged the two boys to fight. Superintendent Graham said: “Our teachers’ actions brought a lot of questions, and a lot of concerns.” The school district also said that the school has a zero-tolerance policy for violence within its buildings and any discipline will be consistent with board policy and past practice.
The video, provided by the school officials, shows school staff and students in the hallway. One of the teachers, Contreras, was reportedly seen talking to two students, one in a black shirt, and one in a red shirt in the middle of the hallway. The accused teacher then raises his hand between the two students. When the educator dropped his hand, the two boys start fighting. The other educator, Wilt, can be heard saying – “let them fight,” The Chronicle-Telegram reports.
The video also shows the students throwing punches at each other and shoving one another across the hallway. The video also shows both educators trying to take a student’s cellphone while he records the fight. During the fight, one of the educators reportedly pushed the students away from her, but not try to stop the fight. According to Superintendent Graham, the school has two safety officers, both of which were in another part of the building when the fight initially started. Neither student was seriously injured, he said.
Superintendent Graham also said that the educators involved reportedly said in an interview that they expressed concerns for their personal safety if they would have broken up the fight. After the fight, both students were suspended. But, when other students brought forward videos of the incident, they were brought back May 17 – with no further disciplinary action.
Education Association President Julie Garcia said: “District administrators, unfortunately, have instead chosen to scapegoat these well-respected educators who have dedicated their lives and careers to (serve) their students and ensuring their well-being.” According to Garcia, one of the teachers involved served on the building safety committee for the Ohio school, including advocating for an additional security officer to handle incidents like this, advice the administration allegedly ignored. Intervening in a fight that may require a student be physically restrained requires specialized crisis prevention and intervention training and educators are instructed not to intervene without that training, Garcia also said.
According to the The Chronicle-Telegram, Education Association President Julie Garcia also said: “LCS never offered that training, or for that matter, any specific guidance as to how to handle student fights, to educators. We have no reason to believe that the district would not be equally as likely to pursue discipline against teachers for physically intervening in this situation. The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, and we need the support of the district to ensure we can effectively deliver on that mission.”