'48 hours of chaos': Akron teachers union criticizes superintendent over school safety

Akron Public Schools’ educators union says the schools are “not safe” after a student stabbing of another student, a fight and a bomb threat at three separate schools in the district this week.

“The violence is real. It is not overstated, exaggerated or imagined,” the Akron Education Association said in a press release Wednesday evening. “We believe that Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack has failed students, parents and teachers. The Akron community deserves more.”

School safety has been a key issue in ongoing contract negotiations with Akron teachers.

“We ask again that, in the shared responsibility we all have for student safety, our families engage in ongoing conversations about violent behavior and the serious consequences of making the choices some young people are making,” Akron Public Schools Chief of Security Don Zesiger said in a statement Thursday morning. "As a community, too, we must continue this discussion because violence is prevalent now in our neighborhoods and it is flowing into our schools. We simply cannot continue on this course."


Violence at Akron Public Schools:Akron Public Schools teachers union sounding alarm over violent, disruptive student behavior

Recent instances of violence in Akron Public Schools

A fight between two students at Ellet High School on Tuesday was followed by a second fight, the arrival of family members and further confrontations, with 14 police cruisers eventually responding to the scene.

Two freshman boys fought in a restroom, with one boy receiving a minor injury over his eye. When members of one of the boy’s family arrived to pick him up, there was another fight in the parking lot, with no injuries reported in the second fight.

Ellet school fights:Akron police respond with 14 cruisers to fights at Ellet high school Tuesday

Akron Police Lt. Michael Miller said Wednesday that charges are likely to be filed, but the incident is still under review.

A student at Buchtel Community Learning Center on Wednesday afternoon received a non-life-threatening pocket knife wound during a fight among three students in the main lobby of the high school. The two other students left the school before police arrived.

Buchtel stabbing:Student stabbed at Buchtel CLC with pocket knife; police seek suspect

Miller said steps were being taken to locate the student who is believed to have stabbed the other student and that there was "no immediate danger to the community.

Another student was stabbed during a fight at Firestone high school on Nov. 4. His wounds were also said to be non-life threatening.

Akron Education Assocation:'Increasingly not safe': Akron schools' staff members say student misbehavior on the rise

The union said that also on Wednesday, a bomb threat locked down Jennings Middle School.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan issued a statement Thursday saying he's aware of the incidents that happened this week and understands "the need for investment into public safety and specifically for our youth."

He said the city has spent $1.3 million in federal stimulus money to fund violence intervention and prevention efforts, particularly those targeting youth."

"Every student deserves a safe learning environment and as a former educator myself, I am incredibly supportive of our Akron Public Schools and all of our outstanding educators," Horrigan said.

'We need a superintendent on the ground': AEA calls out Christine Fowler Mack

In its statement, the teachers' union questioned why the superintendent didn't go to Buchtel when the stabbing happened.

“When AEA leadership arrived at Buchtel to assess the situation, we were concerned with the absence of Superintendent Fowler Mack,” the union said in its statement. “We need a superintendent on the ground, not a spokesperson misinforming the public.”

At a school board meeting Monday, Fowler Mack said the district is “listening to concerns” and “not shying away from the concerns.”

Akron school board:'We are listening': APS superintendent says district is addressing school safety concerns

"We want an environment that is conducive to good teaching and learning and that starts with everyone feeling safe,” she said.

After this week’s incidents, Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe criticized Fowler Mack’s comments.

“After APS Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack told the Board on Monday evening that she wants everyone to feel safe in our schools, our APS students, teachers and staff were subjected to 48 hours of chaos,” Shipe said in a statement.

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Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at and on Twitter @EmilyMills818.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron teachers union criticizes superintendent over school safety