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School assaults on teachers raise concern
MANCHESTER — The Board of School Committee is again asking school administrators to report assaults committed at school by students to police.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Mayor Ted Gatsas presented the board with a list of about 20 incidents where students and teachers had an altercation that resulted in a worker compensation claim in September. Although teacher names were omitted, a brief description of the incidents included students biting teachers, throwing objects at teachers and headbutting teachers. There were also injuries sustained while teachers were breaking up student fights.
In September, $55,151 was paid out in workers compensation claims. About half of those claims involved student-teacher altercations.
“I want to know why these haven’t been reported to the police. After the discussions we had, all of these were supposed to be reported to the police,” said Gatsas, referring to a previous vote by the school committee requiring that school principals report possible assaults and other crimes to police in an effort to protect teachers and students.
Gatsas said he spoke with Manchester police Chief David Mara and was told none of the recent incidents were reported.
“I look at it as our obligation to report this to police. If there is an extenuating circumstance, like a disability, that’s up to police and prosecutors to make that determination,” said Committee member John Avard. “I find things here that are shocking that they are happening in our school district. If these happen on a street corner or anywhere else, they would be arrestable offenses.”
Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan said he would look into whether any of the incidents were reported to the police’s School Resource Officers or if any of these cases were determined to be caused by a student’s disability. If that is the case, the incidents may have needed to be handled differently, he said.
“When they’re on the street corner they could be arrested but in the school house we have laws we must follow,” said Brennan.
Avard countered that students with disabilities have rights, but they are not allowed to commit crimes without consequences.
“If they’re breaking the law, they are breaking the law, regardless of their (level of disability). What we can do in regards to expulsions is different, but I don’t believe that gives them immunity,” Avard said.
The board voted to again direct principals to report all assaults to police. Committee member Donna Soucy voted against the directive.
Before voting, some of the members questioned whether another vote was necessary, especially in light of the little information the board had about these incidents, how old the students were or what kind of injuries the teachers sustained.
“We have no information except for a five-word description of the incident,” said Committee member Mike DeBlasi. “We have no facts here. We have a lot of assumptions.”
Committee member Chris Herbert said more than one of these incidents could also involve the same student and that the numbers should not be used to scare the public about what is happening in local schools.
“It’s not like we have an army of kids out of control. This is a small percentage of students,” said Herbert. “I’m sure this is pretty tame compared to what the adults do in this city.”