(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The union representing Erie High School teachers has said that teachers will work remotely until the school district improves safety at the school.
On April 5, a student shot another student at Erie High School. The injured student was transported to a hospital and was reportedly in stable condition. Police cleared the building and students were dismissed early. Classes are canceled for the rest of the week at Erie High School, and next week is spring break.
In a letter from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) to Erie Public Schools Superintendent Brain Polito, the union wrote that the district “cannot legally direct EEA members to work from an unsafe and dangerous work environment.”
The EEA (Erie Education Association) is the local teachers union.
“Without additional and demonstrative efforts on behalf of the district, as it currently stands, the high school is a fundamentally unsafe and dangerous environment,” the union wrote. “Therefore, be advised that beginning immediately and until certain processes and safeguards are in place to protect students and staff, the EEA membership shall be working remotely from home in the same way they did during district/building lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter notes that PSEA and EEA representatives raised safety concerns with the superintendent during a Jan. 13 meeting.
According to the letter, the union has nine demands before it will return to in-person instruction:
- Locks on all interior doors
- Locks on all exterior doors
- Communications devices for every staff person
- An increase in security and/or police
- The installation of metal detectors. Until that can be accomplished, all students shall be scanned with handheld electronic devices which detect weapons.
- Procedures related to discipline and student behavior interventions in writing and distributed to all staff.
- Written instructions for student removal procedures
- Security cameras
- And all EEA members shall have access to the “Behavior” tab in Infinite Campus for every currently enrolled student at the high school
The union had additional demands for when teachers are back to in-person instruction:
- A police of no student cell phone use, consistently applied and enforced
- Security blinds on all windows
- Training for all staff regarding crisis and emergency situations
- On-site mental health support for staff
- Uniforms for students, including clear backpacks/bags
- Routine emergency drills for staff and students
- Programs focusing on restorative practices, particularly at the middle school levels where interventions and assistance may be more effective and help prevent escalating behaviors as children age.
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“The EEA acknowledges that the Board of Directors and the administration have no desire to create, allow
or maintain a district in which acts of violence are pervasive and result in severe bodily harm to staff and
students, or worse. To that extent, the EEA is hopeful that the district will receive this letter in the spirit
of collaboration and unity in which it is intended,” the letter said.
In an email, district spokesperson Erica Erwin wrote, “We continue to work with our district police and local law enforcement as part of their ongoing investigation and are in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for the safe return of staff and students to Erie High School. In the meantime, counseling services are available all to students and staff at the Erie Center for Arts and Technology, 650 East Ave., and Family Services, 5100 Peach St., from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. throughout this week.”