Principal responds to teacher claims RVA middle school not safe - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Principal responds to teacher claims RVA middle school 'not safe'

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Terrified Richmond teachers called 12 On Your Side claiming they do not feel safe in their own classroom. 24 hours later, the principal at Martin Luther King Middle is speaking out.

Principal Rickie Hopkins took us inside MLK Middle School to address teacher complaints that they don't feel safe in their own classes.

"And I can understand why a teacher would feel like that," said Principal Hopkins as he walked us through the school. "But the classrooms all have glass at the front door, and most of the time security is walking from one end of the hall to the other."

Hopkins admits teachers have been threatened in their own classrooms.

"But we need to make sure everyone feels safe in the building," said Hopkins. "We are going to have some more training with our teachers on how to work with students that are difficult."

MLK middle is a large two-story complex with 750 students. The principal is requesting at least six more security staff. That would allow the principal to assign two security personnel to each hall. 

Hopkins notes there were 686 out-of-school suspensions last fall alone. He says there have been 68 out-of-school suspensions since he became principal in February of this year. He has reinstituted In School Suspension, or ISS, on campus. 

"Because suspending a child out of school is not the answer for every case," said Hopkins. "Our goal is to educate the child."

That leads to one of the larger complaints in the two-page letter from teachers.

"The administration made a rule that prevents students from being removed from class," said teachers in the note.

"Part of that is true," replied Hopkins. "Because teachers do not have the right to tell students to get out."

Hopkins says the code of conduct requires teachers to first contact parents if a child becomes unruly. He says in extreme cases, teachers can request security personnel escort a student to the office. Hopkins says he encourages teachers to focus on classroom management skills. 

"But you understand you have teachers saying they cannot teach in this environment because of the behavioral issues?" we asked Hopkins.

"I think if a teacher feels that he or she cannot teach in this particular school, I would prefer for them to come and say that to me," said Hopkins. "I would definitely assist them in finding a school they feel safer or more comfortable to teach in." 

Hopkins says he plans to meet with teachers in the coming days to address their concerns in a formal setting. He is also encouraging parents to conduct school visits more regularly. 

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