Good News: Assaulted Para-Teacher Will Recover. Bad News: Schools are Really Dangerous for Teachers

Photos from Mark VanCleave – STAR TRIBUNE

The teachers’ aid, Mohammed Dukuly, who was viciously attacked by a student, is going to be OK. According to the Star Tribune, “Dukuly, whose condition improved from critical to serious at Hennepin County Medical Center, said he couldn’t remember what transpired the day he was assaulted at Harrison Education Center, an alternative high school in Minneapolis.”

“Thank God!” Dukuly murmured. “I don’t know what happened to me. I’m starting to know things for myself. Thank God!”

Yes, thank God, he is speaking and seems to be on his way to recovery.

Mr. Dukuly has worked at the Harrison Education Center, an “alternative” high school since 2005.

His attacker, Corey David Burfield, 18, was charged with one count of first-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault, was released without posting bail. The judge, William Koch, concluded that he is not a flight risk. Really? Mr. Dukuly and his family, and the Hennepin County prosecutor, Mike Freeman, opposed the move.

Burfield must submit to electronic home monitoring and can have no contact with Dukuly, Koch ruled. Burfield also must meet with a mental health professional within two weeks.

Burfield’s mother, who attended the hearing, told the judge that she could supervise her son.

We have heard that before; this guy is 18 and, according to the article, has assaulted other teachers at the school. Sorry, this man belongs behind bars. If he has mental health issues, he should be confined.

OK, now for the reality check. What is happening in our schools?

Minneapolis School Superintendent Ed Graff turned this crisis into an opportunity to pitch for more money for more money for schools even though it spends $56 million on special education (fine, I get that, parents send violent students to schools and expect miracles) but he also called for more affordable housing? What is he running for?

Graff needs to get focused, fast, on what is happening in his schools. And it is not just Harrison, “a special education school offering a highly restricted environment for students with severe behavioral and emotional needs.”

Graff has been on the job for about two years, yet he was unfamiliar with the history of assaults at Harrison, which is under federal investigation.

Graff, who became superintendent in the summer of 2016, said he did not know the specifics of the school’s troubled history.

Harrison has been under review by federal officials checking the district’s compliance with special education requirements. Graff said the district is cooperating with federal officials, adding that special education is complex.

It only took a Strib reporter less than a day to piece together a rap sheet for assaults committed by Burfield at the school, and attacks by other students at the school that should call into question whether teachers, or students, are safe there.

No charges were filed in these cases. Why not?

If Burfield had been charged, this attack on Dukuly would not have happened. That’s negligence, at best.  

Harrison lost a principal in 2016 after she had been on the job about a year; she was hit repeatedly in the face and suffered a concussion; the student was charged:

Fabre did not return to Harrison after the attack. She now works as a middle school principal in Louisiana — and remains highly critical of the district, which she said is failing Harrison and its students.

Of the assault on Dukuly, Fabre said Thursday: “I am not surprised at all. The Minneapolis Public Schools system has done nothing to address the mental health conditions of the students they serve.”

Am I allowed to ask, when did that become the job of public schools? I am grateful there are teachers willing to take that on but if students are not mentally healthy enough to be at school, to the point where they cannot control their behavior, then why are we allowing them to attend?

Students sitting outside of Harrison, pondering whether to go into the school, nailed the problem:

Students Martasia Rowland and her older brother Kiontae Robinson sat outside the school building Thursday morning and discussed whether they should attend Harrison after learning about the altercation that left Dukuly injured.

“We have been getting support from most of the staff around how to deal with this, but students have been given too many chances,” said Rowland, 15. “When they do something, they don’t get disciplined.”

The students’ mother, Lashawnda Morrow, said the episode has taken a toll on her kids. Morrow said teachers could use more help to better support the troubled students and the school staff.

“Whenever I go there, I see kids horse playing, cursing at teachers or fighting aggressively,” Morrow said. “The teachers are great, but I feel like there should be more teachers for safety reasons and the school should be more structured.”

I have a lot of questions for Superintendent Graff, and even Ms. Morrow but what I want to focus on is this: where is the teachers’ union? And how has it contributed to the total breakdown in decorum in our culture and our schools?

Teachers are being assaulted. At work. Where is their union? Is it calling for tough discipline, or throwing kids out of school who hurt and maim teachers? Is it demanding that police reports are filed?

To the contrary.

Education Minnesota has instead endorsed the so-called “restorative justice” approach to discipline, or rather not disciplining students. That means students are “forgiven” and allowed to stay or quickly return to school after an assault on teachers or other students. Police reports do not get filed. This is the racial quota approach to discipline, though ironically in this case, the teacher was black and the student white.

These are the kind of policies that have undermined discipline at our public schools. They are failing teachers, they are failing students.

And it is not just one “special” school like Harrison in Minneapolis. We have interviewed dozens of teachers from all over the Twin Cities during the last year. Urban and suburban teachers all report an uptick in violence from students; they say that they are not allowed to do anything to discipline students.

There are no consequences, or inconsistent consequences, for what would be treated as criminal behavior outside of school.

The teachers’ union joined the Obama Administration, and the Minnesota Department of Education, and radical administrations like the Minneapolis schools, to undermine teacher safety and their ability to do their job. The union is funding all the chaos taking place both inside and outside of our schools. Check out the chart below. Is this what teachers want to support?

If the teachers win their right to opt-out of the union later this summer (see Janus v. Afscme, public employees cannot be forced to pay fees to a union to keep their job), we urge them, out of self-defense, to exercise their right to opt out. That will get the union’s attention.

Check out this chart we created to show where the teachers’ union is spending its PAC money; these are their priorities, not teachers, not students, not education.