‘The comments were depressing,’ Teacher survey says bad behavior rising inside Oklahoma City classrooms

OKLAHOMA CITY - If you read the latest Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers survey, you may have seen comments like “I do not at all feel supported or valued by district staff.”

Another teacher wrote "I will be leaving the classroom at the end of this year, not due to abysmal pay or shameful state funding, but because I am not supported, valued, or respected."

Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City AFT, said the comments were from Oklahoma City public school teachers.

The AFT handed out the survey to more than 2,400 Oklahoma City public school teachers. The survey asked about discipline, and nearly 600 teacher replied.

“The comments were more depressing this year,” Allen said.

The survey asked questions like 'Which of the following behaviors have students displayed in your classroom this year?'

Eighty percent answered with 'Failure to comply with classroom rules,' followed by 'Refusal to complete work,' 'Foul language' and 'Aggressive behavior toward another student.'

“I think it's a mistake to take this report negatively,” said school board member Mark Mann.

A district spokesperson told News 4, in an email, the district is shifting "away from 'punishing' students" and "toward helping students develop discipline and self-control."

"OKCPS received the survey data late Thursday, so we've only had the opportunity to do an initial review. It will most certainly take more time for us to fully digest this information. However, OKCPS identified gaps in supports for teachers and students as areas of focus in our Great Commitment strategic plan which we have been implementing since 2015-16. Our teachers, principals and central office leaders have been working together through a transformational mindset shift away from 'punishing' students toward helping students develop discipline and self-control. When a student struggles in reading, we teach them; likewise, we believe that when a student struggles with making positive behavior choices, teaching should also be our first response.

OKCPS appreciates our union’s partnership in this work, and we look forward to digging into the clear variation in mindsets toward children that still exist to ensure that every child and teacher is part of a school community with a culture of care and support."

- OKCPS Supt. Aurora Lora

“We either have an issue where our policy doesn't go deep enough to deal with those kids who are chronically disruptive or we haven't done a good job in training our frontline staff,” Mann said.

While some teachers said "We need to bring back spanking" and "Corporal punishment needs to make its return."

“The teacher was frustrated, and a lot of people - even I - can relate to that, but that's not going to happen. There are better ways to address the problem,” Allen said.

It's a problem board members hope to discuss.

“So, I hope we take this and move forward and address some of these concerns,” Mann said.

Mann also said he hopes the legislature acts fast to help provide teachers and districts with the financial resources they need to address discipline.