Exclusive: Suffolk teachers blast administration for creating unsafe environment

"Students have been allowed to curse, disrespect and deface school property with no consequences," wrote one King's Fork Middle teacher in a hand-written survey.

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A group of teachers at King’s Fork Middle School say a lack of student discipline and weak support from administrators has created an “unsafe and unhealthy” environment to work.

In a majority of the 18 handwritten surveys obtained by 10 On Your Side, some teachers call for the administration to be replaced.

“I feel unsafe,” writes one teacher. “The school resource officer is in her office all day not walking around the school. Why?”

“Students have been allowed to curse, disrespect and deface school property with no consequences,” wrote another teacher. “Students have been able to dictate what they will and will not do and get away with it.”

The surveys, distributed and collected by Andy Castro, generally ask the administration for more support.

“They all feel like they are coming to an unsafe, unhealthy environment,” said Casto, who teaches 8th grade Spanish. “The problem that you are sending is that ‘we can do whatever we want and there is no consequences.’ It also causes a bad environment for the kids who want to learn.”

Castro has taught at King’s Fork Middle School for 10 years, but he says discipline problems have gotten worse since the administration changed in 2016.

In early February, Castro says his colleague was attacked by a student who was able to return to school after a 10-day suspension.

Recently, a student cursed him out and he made sure the student got out of school suspension. Castro says the same student did not receive any consequences for cursing on four other occasions.

Castro says he delivered the 18 completed surveys to Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney at a private meeting Feb. 21. He says he left the meeting with no promises from Dr. Whitney about changes.

In the surveys, teachers request “disciplinary support.”

One teacher says, “Students hit, punch and push each other in the halls. We cannot write referrals for this because they are just playing, but these behaviors lead to more serious behaviors.”

“Staff members feel they have no credibility or authority,” another teacher writes.

Castro says teachers have voiced their concerns for three years: “You, as administrators, just tap dance around the situation every time we bring it up.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk Public Schools said the district was aware of the teachers’ concerns.

The safety of staff and students is a top priority for Suffolk Public Schools,” said Bethanne Bradshaw. “Teaching and learning will not be at its best if they don’t feel safe at school.  Administrators are open to hearing concerns from parents, students and staff.  However, there are often no easy solutions. Teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the community must work together to improve school safety.

A teacher wrote at the end of one survey, “Yes, change takes time, but when it comes to safety, something should happen immediately.”

Enoch Copeland, school board chairman, told WAVY.com he was unaware of the teachers’ concerns but said the issue will be addressed by the board.