Students have assaulted staff members four times recently at Minneapolis schools serving students with emotional and behavioral needs, including an incident Thursday that led to a student’s arrest, according to police.
Revelations of three assaults since last month at Harrison Education Center, a North Side alternative high school, and another in November at River Bend, a K-8 alternative school, prompted the Minneapolis School District to call a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Interim Superintendent Michael Goar and other district administrators said they do not tolerate acts of violence.
“We take student violence and the safety of our teachers paramount and very seriously,” Goar said.
The district did not provide the number of assaults since the beginning of the school year but said the nature of Harrison, which educates students with severe behavior and emotional needs, can lead to violent situations.
On Thursday, a 14-year-old boy was arrested at Harrison in connection with the assault of a female teacher. A school spokesman said no one was injured.
On Dec. 7, Harrison Principal Monica Fabre was assaulted by a 17-year-old female student who was arrested on suspicion of fifth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, police said.
Fabre, 47, said Thursday that she is dealing with the effects of a concussion and hopes that she can return to work soon. She said the altercation has not made her rethink her career choice. “I would never leave my profession,” she said.
Police said the next day, an 18-year-old male student was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Sakaria O. Ashirow, 29, a paraprofessional in his first school year at Harrison. Ashirow said he didn’t miss work because of the incident.
River Bend special education teacher Jenny Cramer told school board members in December that she was assaulted by a female student on Nov. 10 after “trying to de-escalate” a situation. “The violence that occurs at River Bend would likely shock many members of society,” she said.
The girl, 13, was arrested on suspicion of gross-misdemeanor assault, according to a police report.
District officials at first declined to confirm reports of the assaults to the Star Tribune. An attorney for the district, Amy Moore, said, “Due to data privacy laws we cannot provide information.”
At the news conference, Rochelle Cox, director of special education, said teachers and staff members are trained throughout the year to prevent or de-escalate violent behavior.
Anthony Gregory, a first-year English teacher at Harrison, said that he has been in other district buildings and that he does not think Harrison is any less safe than other schools.
“Kids within this population are often forgotten about and thrown to the side,” Gregory said. “This building gives them a voice.”
The Minneapolis assaults come to light as educators in St. Paul and other metro districts cope with similar incidents.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said last month that his office charged 28 fourth-degree assault cases in 2015 involving students, with nearly half occurring in the St. Paul suburbs. Many of the suburban cases involved programs serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD).
On Dec. 18, a 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty in juvenile court to injuring a St. Paul Central High School teacher and an assistant principal in a case that reignited teachers’ complaints in that district about school discipline. The boy was sentenced this week to 90 days of intensive supervised probation and electronic home monitoring.