AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Monday night, the Akron Public School’s Board of Education passed a resolution to purchase high-tech safety equipment, like metal detectors, to make schools safer.
Parents and teachers packed the meeting, many very angry, telling the board and administration, that more needs to be done to keep schools safe.
The board approved the purchase of new safety equipment by a vote of 5-to-2, and at a cost of $3 to $4 million.
It was a packed house, with standing-room only inside the meeting and teachers, parents and students packed in the hallway outside, all calling for an end to violence inside Akron schools.
“This is no way to work, this is no way to live … your teachers are exhausted,” said a teacher who addressed the board.
“I am asking you tonight to support these teachers, I am telling you tonight that they should strike and I am in full support of their actions,” said an emotional parents, who was applauded.
“My colleagues and I wonder, not ‘if’ our building will become a statistic, but when,” the teacher added. “How can we do our job, how can we educate children in this environment? How can I focus on teaching, when I worry that I might be severely injured before an assault is taken seriously by this administration.”
Tensions are high among parents and teachers after two incidents where guns were found inside of schools just last week. In recent weeks, a student has been stabbed and teachers complain of constant fighting between student and violence toward teachers as well.
Some teachers and parents say students often use their cell phones to coordinate fights or create other trouble.
“On any given day, I may be asked, ‘What the F are you looking at? or told ‘there’s nothing you can do to me’ and they are largely right,” said another teacher.
“This is not a situation where it is us versus them, it’s we…we are Akron, we are Akron Public Schools, all of us together have to take responsibility, accountability for the situation that we have,” said school board president Dr. N.J. Akbar.
Akron’s superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack and the the district’s chief operating officer Stephen Thompson demonstrated safety equipment they want the board to approve for purchase. It include a high-tech metal detector system, requesting 61 screeners for 17 schools.
The upgrades would also include newer cameras for all school buildings, 23 bag scanners similar to those used at airports, as well as door alarms.
“We are as an administration team listening, we are responding, we know that there is more that we can do,” said Akron schools superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack.
Some of the high-tech devices will be in use as early as this spring, but others, like the metal detectors, could take up to a year to install in all Akron public schools.
The administration also talked about providing more mental health support for students and teachers.
The Akron Education Association released the following statement on the safety measures:
“While AEA believes improving technology surrounding metal detectors, cameras, and exterior door alarms is a good first step to prevent outside weapons and violence coming into our buildings, we still believe there is a lot of work to be done to address the violence within our classrooms and hallways. Assaults, fighting, and harassment still continue to be a large presence within our buildings. Teachers will continue to speak out and work with the Akron community and our families to have the difficult discussions necessary to work towards solutions.”