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McNiel teacher, parents react to Wednesday’s hallway brawl

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 11:40 AM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - A McNiel teacher and parents are voicing their upset at news of a hallway brawl that took place at the middle school on Wednesday.

The teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, called the fight a “crime” and worried about the safety of school personnel. They were concerned the student rumor mills would talk about the fight “almost to the point of celebrating it,” and said these types of incidents continue to occur despite disciplinary action being taken.

“I think there are far too many students who are not concerned with the greater issue at hand,” the teacher said. “Concerns to the safety of all school personnel. Concerns regarding the facilities and equipment. Even when it’s addressed, it almost feels like a challenge to authority.”

Looking towards the future, there are fears that these types of incidents may cause teachers to walk away from WFISD, which has felt the effects of a national substitute and full-time teacher shortage since even before the pandemic.

“I want to teach. I want to be a positive role model. I want kids to know that someone cares about who they are and what they are at school to do,” said the teacher. “I am committed to each student who trusts me to be that mentor, but teaching in this environment taints that desire.”

The teacher’s full statement can be read below.

Parents have also expressed shock at the video, which appears to show a teacher trying to help a colleague break up a fight only to be set upon by multiple students.

“The hallway was way too congested. There was absolute chaos. There was no plan,” said McNiel parent Heather Rannila. “I mean, you can’t really plan for stuff like that. But you would think they would have some more assistance, especially with them having to have as many kids as they have here right now.”

As one of three middle schools in the district, McNiel has faced overcrowding. The idea of creating a center solely for WFISD’s 1,000 sixth graders was briefly floated by the school board before being tabled back in November of 2021.

Rannila went on to say she didn’t feel the incident was fully preventable, because, “these types of things happen at this age. There’s always going to be something.” Her sentiments that something needed to change at home, rather than in schools, were echoed by fellow parent Carol Dodd.

“When I was in school, you wouldn’t have heard of a kid hitting a teacher, you know, especially when it’s someone trying to break up a fight,” Dodd said. “I think society is failing us. I think the school is doing everything it can do to keep our kids safe, but if it doesn’t continue on in home and kids aren’t taught respect, that’s the direction we’re headed.”

The Snapchat video of the incident has been circling on social media since Wednesday. It appears to show a teacher trying to separate two girls who have grabbed each other’s hair. When another teacher steps in to assist, he is surrounded by multiple male students. At one point, the video shows the assisting teacher being held from behind by one boy as three or four other students appear to shove and/or hit him. The teacher ultimately frees himself, possibly with the help of other staff members. The video then shows the first teacher trying to grab a student, who loses his backpack as he runs away.

McNiel Principal Summer Bynum sent an email to parents Wednesday saying the incident would be investigated by local law enforcement. WFISD officials declined an interview, but said the board would take action depending on if charges were filed.

The full statement of the McNiel teacher is below:

“It’s upsetting to see this kind of behavior permeate the school environment. Whether it’s an argument or altercation, many students will want to talk about it, almost to the point of celebrating it. And it’s not, it’s a crime. Getting in fights, being rude and profane, being disrespectful doesn’t and shouldn’t earn anybody any elevated social standing. They see their peers get into trouble. Be removed from campus. Or at least they hear about it and talk about it through a myriad of social media outlets. But it still continues to happen. And I think there are far too many students who are not concerned with the greater issue at hand. Concerns to the safety of all school personnel. Concerns regarding the facilities and equipment. Even when it’s addressed, it almost feels like a challenge to authority. We know tensions run high at the end of the year. We see an increase in behavior issues. That should not be an invitation to cause more problems and stress. There’s enough of that in the world. I want to teach. I want to be a positive role model. I want kids to know that someone cares about who they are and what they are at school to do. To learn, grow, make honest mistakes and be guided towards their goals. I am committed to each student who trusts me to be that mentor, but teaching in this environment taints that desire. We all need to accept responsibility for how we act. We will be conduits of growth or barriers to progress. Regardless, we need to all do and be better. We need consequences. We need support. We need everyone all in for these kids. They deserve it.”

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