Classroom violence threat has teachers scared to come to work, Virginia education advocate says

Virginia Education Association President: 'Public education is like a crime scene. Educators are the victim and parents are upset.'
Richneck Elementary shooting
Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 18:25:03-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The leader of the Commonwealth's largest teacher organization says teachers in Virginia scared to come to work, because of the threat of violence in their classroom.

Richneck Elementary School in Newport News gained national attention after police say a six-year-old first grader intentionally shot a teacher there.

James Fedderman, the President of the Virginia Education Association, said the recent violence there left teachers across grade levels worried about if they could be next, considering the young age of the child.

"Educators are not wanting to go back to a crime scene. Public education is like a crime scene. Educators are the victim and parents are upset," Fedderman told CBS 6 Thursday afternoon, almost one week after the shooting.

The school district's superintendent said in a statement that "collective efforts coupled with active shooter training provided to the staff of Richneck, ensured an immediate and coordinated response to this safety threat."

Fedderman said the fact that teachers have to be prepared for any kind of violence to occur in their classroom at any day is concerning.

"That teacher woke up that morning with the intent to do the very best she could possibly do. By the end of the day, she was fighting for her life," he said.

The prevalence of violence happening in schools across the country, he said, leaves educators fearful.

"We have educators that are staring to experience social and emotional anxiety as they're driving to the building. I've even observed educators actually getting physically sick, to the point of vomiting, as they enter the school parking lot," Fedderman.

Fedderman said the trauma from teaching, plus stagnant teacher pay and nationwide teacher shortages, is turning potential teaching candidates away.

The heavy workload teachers have to take and lack of resources, Fedderman said, may lead to oversight of potential threats.

"As an educator, I often ask myself what could've been prevented? Were there signs? Foreseeable dangers? Was there a cry for help? Were there just hidden messages that because of the demands of the day to day job, that the teacher or the system just overlooked?" he asked. "If there were warning signs, you have to do something about it. It's not about having good numbers or good statistics, because if someone loses their life, they become a statistic as well."

While Fedderman said he supports upgraded security measures like metal detectors, they will not be effective unless schools have the resources to man them.

"A lot of things can happen when you're not fully staffed and those individuals that are coming in to either substitute, or a warm body, they have to know the system, they have to know what the plans are in the event of an emergency. And on any given day, there could be an emergency."

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