Racine Unified School District facing lawsuit over ongoing safety concerns

NOW: Racine Unified School District facing lawsuit over ongoing safety concerns

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- After years of battling with the school district to back them up, a handful of teachers are suing Racine Unified School District over ongoing safety concerns. 

Teachers named in the lawsuit cite numerous occasions when they say students and staff were physically and emotionally harmed as a result of fights in the hallways. 

Video from 2018, taken by an 8th grader, shows chaos inside a classroom at Case High School; a teacher is seen cupping her ears as she calls for help. Teachers filed four grievances from 2021 to 2022, claiming RUSD failed to provide a safe workplace. 

"Especially coming out of the shutdowns related to the pandemic we have a lot of kids that are struggling with mental health issues, and so we believe that more support needs to be put into place. We need more teachers, reduced class sizes. We need full time social workers, full time guidance counselors," said Angelica Cruz, president of Racine Educators United. 

In 2018, a grievance was filed titled, "Mitchell Middle School in Crisis" after reports of 15 staff injured by students. In 2021, Racine police arrested a 13-year-old boy for bringing a firearm to school. Teachers say the lawsuit is about protecting the school community as a whole. 

"I think a piece of it is my own safety, but then also the 30 students that I am in charge of caring for every day," said Cruz. 

CBS 58 received a statement from Racine Unified School District claiming the union is demanding control on how school safety is handled, that the union wants to "minimize the presence of school resource officers and law enforcement in our schools," and "the district will not be bullied." 

The union's response? 

"We have resource officers, we have metal detectors and what we are saying collectively is that while those things are in place, those things aren't everything. And district administrators, it is incumbent upon them to be leaders of the entire district and bring in the entire community and have a conversation about what is going on," Cruz said. 

Read Racine Unified School District's full statement below: 

"The basis for this lawsuit is the union demanding control of how school safety is handled. While the district welcomes union voice to the table, we believe it is critical that we continue to work with our local law enforcement to handle any school safety issues that arise. We are grateful for our strong relationships and how well our local law enforcement responds and serves our schools when needed.

The union believes we should “minimize the presence of school resource officers and law enforcement” in our schools. We believe this contradicts their demands for keeping our schools safe.

The union continues to pressure for a district-wide safety committee, but what they have not shared is that this committee already exists. In addition, all school staff are invited to be involved in collaborative solutions meetings held monthly at each school to address safety and any other issues. The union is involved in this same monthly meeting at the district level. Most recently, the union has also been invited to participate in the Superintendent’s Safety Advisory Council.

Unfortunately, the union continues to insist on having its own way. The district will not be bullied into allowing an interest group to dictate how and with whom we collaborate on important issues."
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