HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Teachers at Rolling Hills Elementary School in Huntsville contend that attacks from students are sending some to the hospital, and they’re trying to force district officials to address the situation.
Alabama Education Association Uniserv director Adam Keller, who represents Rolling Hills teachers, told AL.com “more than a handful” teachers have complained about attacks by students and the school administration’s lackadaisical response to the incidents.
Keller took the teachers’ grievances to the media this week after he contends multiple attempts to discuss student attacks with school and district administrators went unanswered. In a five-page letter to district officials last week, Keller outlined the teacher complaints and pinned the blame on large class sizes and insufficient resources and staffing – both issues that would require district officials to hire more union members.
Regardless, Keller told the news site he’s never witnessed “anything quite like” the situation at Rolling Hills.
“You get occasional legitimate grievances everywhere, but teachers being sent to the hospital? Questions about how seriously (administrators) are taking it?” he said. “That seems to be fairly unique.”
The Nov. 8 letter allegedly followed Keller’s multiple requests in October and November to meet with district officials about violence from students, as well as a public information request in October for all teacher incident reports of student assaults and injuries on the job.
Keller’s persistence apparently paid off on Wednesday, when the Rolling Hills principal and district director of elementary instruction finally met with the union official.
“We were all in agreement there needs to be an open dialogue and frank meetings to work on solutions and move on from there,” Keller said. “I hope to see the district working on their communication with stakeholders. Frankly, had the superintendent’s office responded in any way, it’s possible we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”
School board member Michelle Watkins told WAAY the district plans to hire a behavioral interventionist to work at Rolling Hills, where the new board member said there’s been student discipline issues for years.
The behavioral specialist starts after the new year, she said, adding that’s she’s also advocating for cultural training for teachers as part of the solution. Watkins said she voiced her concerns about student violence at the school with Interim Superintendent Tom Drake.
“School is a place for learning,” Watkins told WAAY. “I want to make sure teachers and students when they get to school aren’t in fear. We are going to work very hard with the administration to make sure these issues are resolved.”
District officials issued a statement after the meeting with Keller that alleges some of the issues raised at Rolling Hills are based on lies, though they did not elaborate.
“District staff and the principal met to look at concerns shared by the teacher union representative, Mr. Keller from AEA,” the statement read. “During the review, some of the concerns were found to be inaccurate and untrue. The district shared the steps on behavioral learning and classroom management that are already in place, as well as measures to provide an educational program that honors diversity and academics and focuses on the needs of students, and maintains a safe learning environment.”