Safety a big issue in teacher negotiations this year

Sep 6, 2017

ND United president Nick Archuleta.
Credit ND United

The issue of classroom safety came up in a number of contract talks between teachers and their local school districts.

And during some impasse hearings, teachers described incidents in which they were attacked by students. The school boards say they have policies in place to deal with that. But teachers want to have that spelled out in their contracts.

"A contract is where we go to codify the terms and conditions of our employment," said ND United President Nick Archuleta. ND United represents teachers. "There's no condition of employment greater that personal safety."

Archuleta said in Fargo, an elementary school teacher testified at the impasse hearing that she had been bitten by a student. And he said in the Bismarck hearing, some of the stories told by classroom teachers were – as he put it – “horrific.”

Bismarck and Fargo school officials say workforce safety policies have been established. But Archuleta said it seems to some of the teachers that the issue is not being dealt with.

The Fact Finding Commission recommended to the Bismarck School Board that it convene a group of teachers, administrators and board members to work through the issue. Archuleta said while he welcomes that dialogue, he would like to see the safety issue become part of the negotiated agreement.

"A teacher's safe workspace is a student's safe learning space," Archuleta said. "They're the same space, and we need to start treating them that way."