The Bottom Line Investigation: MPS teachers assaulted by students

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by Sarah Barwacz

MILWAUKEE -- Punched, kicked, and injured, it's what Milwaukee Public School teachers report facing on a regular basis at the hands of students.

CBS 58 News found dozens of claims of battery, assaults, and fights. One former staff member is speaking out to CBS 58's investigative team, saying bottom line, teachers are in danger.

"They are in danger." Danger is the reason MPS teacher David Larson quit. He says MPS teachers are afraid to work and put in the middle of out of control fights. 

Larson says, "I've been kicked, I've been hit, one kid almost stuck a pencil in my eye. I've been on the floor many times with kids breaking up fights."

Two years ago Larson retired from Bay View High, he agreed to talk to CBS 58 News saying the public needs to know about the violence in the schools.

"Teachers are in danger, their safety is in danger."

Larson says he even got e-mailed death threats.

"I have a gun, I know how to use it, and I'm not afraid to come in and use it on some people, yeah it shakes you up a bit."

Police records dating back to 2011 back up Larson's claims. We found at least 25 teacher and staff complaints of being hurt or threatened by students at Milwaukee Public Schools. Like a teacher who complained of being punched in the chest, a school safety officer claiming they were choked by a student, and gang fights in the hallway. Even Larson came up in police reports, saying a student swung at him but hit the assistant principal instead.

Bay View students like Geovanny Hernandez have witnessed the violence.

Hernandez says, "What happens when a teacher tries to break up a fight? 'They get hit. They get hit because they get in the way."

At a budget hearing just a week ago, the teachers union vice president demanded better security.

Kim Schroeder, MTEA Vice President says, "Our safety in our buildings is broken and it needs to be fixed. We have teachers and students assaulted every single day in this district, so it's time to put money into programs that work."

We asked MPS whose job it is to break up fights. In a written response the district says, "It's the goal of the school staff to end the fight."

CBS 58 requested the district teacher retention rates. As of January of this year, MPS says 32% of its teachers leave the district by the end of year three. 

Larson says until change is made, more teachers like him will leave the classroom.

"I feel bad for the kids that are going there to get an education and they can't because of the behavior of a few of the kids."

We asked about the number of safety positions at MPS' high schools and Bay View. From 2011 to 2013 the district reports cutting 12 safety assistants. In 2014 they are slated to add 21 positions. We asked the district for an interview, but only got written responses from the public relations department. We invite the school board to tell us how they plan to deal with this issue, and will wait for their response.

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