A Brevard County, Florida school board meeting exploded on Thursday the week after local sheriff Wayne Ivey had announced in front of the county jail that students were no longer afraid of “having the cheeks of their asses torn off,” and called children “clowns.”
At the heated meeting, teachers lamented both not being taken seriously in their complaints of bad student behavior, and principals feeling unsupported, according to reporting by Florida Today. Staff also described being hit and bitten by kids.
More than 50 staff members have resigned this year, according to reporting by the New York Post.
“I’ve watched dozens of my peers and friends leave their classrooms, schools or the profession entirely,” said Matt Yount, a teachers union school representative and the 2014 Brevard Teacher of the Year, according to Florida Today. “An almost universal reason is the deterioration of student behavior over the past several years.”
Others at the meeting, such as the South Brevard NAACP, pushed back on suggestions of heightened discipline.
“We are disproportionately disciplining students of color and with disabilities,” Board member Jennifer Jenkins said, according to Florida Today. “There is zero evidence to support the claims that the federal laws meant to protect these students are handcuffing our staff.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast following the sheriff’s speech in early December, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida urged the district to support students with mental health resources, “instead of promoting violent rhetoric and increasing school policing.”
“Their students and teachers deserve better classroom management, appropriate disciplinary tools, and services that include counselors who help young people learn how to productively navigate conflict and meet expectations, instead of over-policing tactics that further villainize school children,” said the ACLU of Florida’s written statement.
Brevard county has removed at least 7,400 students from their classes through suspensions and expulsions, and arrested 94, “including 16 for ‘disorderly conduct.’” during the 2020-21 school year, according to the ACLU of Florida.
But when confronted on his comments on Thursday, Sheriff Ivey said that more of the complaints aired at the meeting should have arrived at his desk, according to reporting by Florida Today.
“Our job is to deal with the criminal element that happens on our school campuses,” Ivey said, according to Florida Today. “But what’s happening is that line is becoming blurred, because many of those issues you’ve about sitting at this table that should have been handled as a criminal issue never got to us.”
Adding: “If you want to see how that looks, look south to Parkland.”