Fighting the culture wars.
Another New Jersey school district reports severe, post-pandemic disciplinary problems among its students resulting in chaotic schools and violence towards teachers. Surely this is a major concern for teachers, yet the NJEA remains silent on the issue.
NJEdReport reports that teachers in Asbury Park say the middle school is “in a constant state of mayhem” with “out of control” student behavior. Recently, a teacher was jumped and seriously injured by two students, leading to an all-school lockdown.
Teachers told NJEdReport that there is not enough security. Teachers have to “stand by their classroom door to control student behavior,” bathrooms must be locked, and the lunch room scene is “horrific.” Students walk out of class to parade in the hallways and disrupt other classes. When teachers tell students to put their cell phones away, the students challenge the teachers to “come and get it.” Teachers say “unsafe behavior is tolerated while students and staff remain in jeopardy.”
But post-pandemic student misbehavior is not limited to Asbury Park, it’s a statewide problem. In a 2023 report, NJ.com’s Tina Kelley catalogued the widespread, post-pandemic behavioral problems across the state:
- “dramatic increase in student misbehavior;”
- “large increase in students caught with weapons in school;”
- “Incidents of all types of unruliness among students, including smoking, mouthing off to a teacher, or tripping a kid on the playground are increasingly common;”
- “We’ve had upticks in every category of disciplinary situations,” according to the Garden State Coalition of 100 (mostly suburban) school districts.
Where is the NJEA, the largest union of teachers, on this critical issue?
The NJEA is all-in for fighting the culture wars, but when is comes to be safety and well-being of teachers, the NJEA has nothing to say. We searched the NJEA’s website and found no indications of any current initiative to help teachers with student misbehavior and violence.
Our search did turn up an example of an extensive NJEA campaign to address violence in schools that was threatening school staff: “10 steps to reduce violence,” dated October 5, 2010!
This was a full-fledged NJEA campaign that called for political-style organizing by NJEA locals because it could not be left to the school district or Department of Education:
“Organizing is necessary to address school violence because nothing else works, especially relying solely on school districts or government agencies to do the right thing.
And NJEA headquarters was there to help with a webpage, resources, and staff.
“Make eliminating school violence a priority and commit to organizing members and allies to pressure district administration for real improvements. Enlist the assistance of the UniServ [NJEA] representative…”
The 2010 campaign shows that when the NJEA wants to address student misbehavior and violence towards teachers, it knows how to. But the NJEA is silent now. It’s too busy fighting the culture wars.