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Assaults on teachers rising in Billings schools; highest in elementary schools

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Posted at 6:52 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 12:41:15-04

BILLINGS - A national spike in student-on-teacher assaults is being reported in districts across the country, and Billings is no different.

New data coming from Billings School District 2 has Superintendent Erwin Garcia giving voters another reason why he believes they should say yes to a district-wide $5 million safety levy. On the ballot are two separate levies for the elementary and high schools, and each are about $2.5 million.

He says in 2016, there were 30 incidents of students assaulting teachers in School District 2.

But in 2023, that number increased to 90 incidents, and roughly 88 percent of those are happening in elementary schools.

“I’ve seen video of kids using chairs as weapons,” he said. “Teachers being hit with tools, with anything. It's books, punches, kicks.”

Garcia says all are examples of the violence happening in Billings classrooms.

A recent survey of Billings teachers showed 65% said they don’t feel safe in school. Another 35% said they feel they must watch their back.

“So, for me, that was eye-opening,” said Garcia. “To have our teachers being concerned of the consequence of addressing discipline behaviors because it can affect their safety.”

In response, Garcia says the district needs to make a seismic move toward keeping teachers safe and feeling safe.

The district-proposed safety levy would place camera systems and safety supplies in the schools, and add personnel.

The upcoming Billings school safety mill levy would provide gang prevention education, according to supporters.

If passed, Billings School District 2 would implement safety measures, including lessons in the classrooms that would keep kids from dropping out.

“So, you think about hiring more mental health, more counselors, but we don’t have the resources for more counselors, so we have to take money away from instruction,” he said.

With ballots now in the hands of voters, Garcia hopes the data will help show people an investment in schools could mean a safer environment for our teachers and students.