Dilworth Middle School teacher concerned about staff safety

This is a recurring recording of KOLO 8 News Now at 10.
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 10:26 PM PST
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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - Washoe County School District Superintendent, Susan Enfield is sending an apology to Dilworth Middle School parents after classes were cancelled Friday, December 16, 2022 because 27 out of 33 teachers called out.

“We care deeply about your children, I apologize about the impact that having to close school in short notice has, I know that’s a hardship on families,” said Enfield.

The reasons for the absences are unknown, but this is happening after an altercation with a student that left a teacher injured.

During a meeting with media, Dr. Enfield is reiterated that the safety of students and staff is paramount.

“Our central office team has been on site, working with the staff at the School closely to review what has happened, to look at other measures we can put in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

The Superintendent did not share specifics about the altercation, but says the teacher is, “fine”. Classes at Dilworth MS are expected to resume Monday.

Jennifer Malaterre has taught at Dilworth Middle School for 13 years. She reached out to KOLO 8 News Now to raise concerns over violence in their building.

”We have a single point entry in our campus as most campuses do for safety concerns. The student was refusing, trying to get into the building on the other hallway,” said Malatere while recounting the incident that happened Thursday. “When another student ran down the hallway to open the door, the teacher blocked the student from coming in, saying ‘You need to go through the main office’, which is a few more steps.”

She said the student verbally abused the teacher and tossed her into the locker causing her to bleed. She adds that violence against staff is not new at the school.

“It’s happened to me twice. I did not feel safe for quite a while at school and this was several years ago,” said Malaterre.

On one of those occasions a student threw her against the wall. She blames legislation.

“I have four boys of my own and two of them are special education students. There are a lot of laws in place to protect these students, and there should be. However, it has gone to the extreme to now these students are doing egregious things to staff.”

Malaterre says while the majority of middle schools have one or two special education programs, Dilworth MS has five with only three teachers to staff them. “That’s the problem,” she said.

Due to the limited resources for special education some of these students are fast-tracked to general education classes, starting what the mother and educator describes as a, “wildfire”.

”Because the high behavior students are now verbally abusing staff, everyday, multiple times a day,” she said.

Malaterre says the fault doesn’t lie on the students or one person, but on a system that’s not working. Dr. Enfield agrees.

“This is not about a specific population of students and we need to be mindful of that. This is about the overall systems that we have in place to keep our students and staff safe in our buildings,” said Enfield.

Malaterre took the day after the altercation off as a mental health day and wants to make it clear that she loves Dilworth MS, her students, administration and fellow staff. She says she hopes action is taken to protect other teachers at Dilworth Elementary from physical harm.

To fight for improvement, she and other teachers will now focus on advocating and helping the WCSD School Board and the Legislature to make needed changes.