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Local teachers union addresses SPS School Board about discipline in the classroom

A school classroom
A school classroom

The Springfield NEA worries about teachers who are dealing with the consequences of a discipline system it feels is inadequate.

A comment delivered at a November 28 Springfield Public School Board meeting has renewed conversation about behavior and discipline in Missouri’s largest school district.

In a statement read at the meeting and posted online, Laura Mullins, president of Springfield’s chapter of the National Education Association, accused the district of directing schools to ignore what they call minor infractions, failing to process or follow through on discipline and generally facilitating an unsafe environment.

Mullins said that, as president of the NEA chapter, she was relaying what she is hearing from educators — that they are told they “can’t refer” a child, that they referred a child for discipline and the administration “declined to process it” or it was processed but “the discipline did not match the infraction.”

Mullins said the situation has resulted in violence against teachers, bullying among students and serious challenges to the mental well-being of educators. She said teachers are regularly reaching out to her for advice on breaking their contracts with the district due to the problems.

This is not the first-time staff have brought these issues to SPS administration, and it's not the first time Mullins has spoken publicly about them.

In November of last year, the Springfield Daily Citizen reported on a worrisome rift growing between the teachers Union and leaders in the district. In May, the Springfield News-Leader reported that Superintendent Dr. Granita Lathan had developed a 15-step plan to address student discipline. Mullins said she was excited to see the plan but has not been impressed with the results.

Mullins said discipline has changed drastically since she started working in education in the late ‘90s. She said the issues started with a tendency to be generous with things like late assignments and make up work. According to Mullins, other school districts are doing better. She said that SPS can start to improve things by simply following its current code of conduct and addressing staffing issues, which she has also spoken about at past board meetings.

KSMU reached out to SPS for comment, but we were unable to connect with anyone by the story’s airtime. The school district shared a written statement they issued November 30. Read it in its entirety at this link.

Updated: December 6, 2023 at 5:16 PM CST
Addition of link to statement from SPS