Teacher describes physical, emotional, sexual abuse at Washington Middle School

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A former Green Bay teacher has resigned because of what she says are safety issues at Washington Middle School.

Sixth-grade teacher Kerstin Westcott said her calling has been to work with at-risk kids and working at Washington Middle School was her dream job.

She resigned at a Green Bay Area Public School board meeting earlier this month.

A YouTube video in which Westcott gives the reasons for her resignation has been viewed almost 6,000 times. In it, she claims that "students and staff are physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally and sexually abused in the building." Westcott also said she and her colleagues "are sworn at and are called vile, rude and sexual names every day."

She told the board she has a list of the vulgar words that have been said to employees and students during just two days of school.

Westcott said people are getting injured more than ever. She said during the month of May alone, one teacher was sent away in a ambulance with a bleeding head wound caused by a fight, students held down another student so they could steal his shoes and more.

She got emotional talking about how one teacher throws up every Sunday night dreading the school week and says teachers are suffering from PTSD.

She asks for help with the violence and other issues, and says she wants the school board to follow the handbook.

In a statement released by the Green Bay Area Public School District, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Langenfeld said the Board of Education and administration became aware of the growing staff concerns in early May.

"District administration and the Board of Education have taken all concerns brought forth seriously and have been working with Washington Middle School administration and staff to improve student behaviors and to address any safety concerns for both students and staff," said Dr. Langenfeld.

Dr. Langenfeld also said that Westcott is an "excellent teacher," and is sad that she had not shared her concerns with Dr. Langenfeld prior to her resignation.

Read the full statement below.

President of the Green Bay Education Association, teacher Lori Cathey, also released a statement on Tuesday.

“Student safety is a top priority of Green Bay educators and we work every day to help our pupils overcome the increasing barriers to learning with which they’re entering our classrooms. We’ve urged the state and district to fund more mental health services and trauma-informed care, and to be sure staffing levels are appropriate. In addition to serving on the district behavior task force, our association in January launched our own behavior committee and will share our findings from teachers’ perspectives about what more could be done to keep students and staff safe. From more supervision in hallways to restorative practices that build healthy schools and reduce violence, Green Bay teachers will continue advancing solutions and partnering with families to make sure students are safe.”

Here is her full testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fZNM1MMD_0&feature=youtu.be&t=1h32m58s

Statement from Dr. Langenfeld regarding Washington Middle School:

On behalf of the Green Bay Area Public School District, I would like to assure our families and community that safety is our highest priority. We have and continue to be committed to the Washington Middle School students, staff and families to ensure a positive learning environment. District administration and the Board of Education have taken all concerns brought forth seriously and have been working with Washington Middle School administration and staff to improve student behaviors and to address any safety concerns for both students and staff.

Executive Director of Secondary Education Tom Hoh, who supervises all secondary principals, has worked closely with Washington Middle School administrators to provide direction and support. As concerns emerged in the winter of 2017, a District office student success team was created that included administrators and staff from the departments of special education, teaching and learning, technology, and pupil services, who meet with Washington Middle School administrators on a regular basis to continue to strategize how to best support staff and students. These supports were implemented due to our recognition that additional resources were required to address student academic and behavior needs at Washington Middle School.

In early May, the Board of Education and administration became aware of the growing staff concerns similar to those shared by Ms. Westcott in June. Upon learning of these concerns, the Board of Education and District Administration took the concerns very seriously. In response, the following occurred:
• We held a meeting with staff.
• Mr. Hoh increased his time at Washington to provide daily on-site support.
• Two District office administrators were deployed daily to Washington Middle School until the end of the school year. Additional staff resources were also provided.
• A second meeting was held in June with Associate Superintendent John Magas, Director of Pupil Services Vicki Bayer and myself after Ms. Westcott’s address to the Board. The purpose of this second meeting was to listen to staff concerns following the infusion of the additional resources and to continue to strategize solutions. Staff reported concerns, but also reported improvements in behavior and reinforced their commitment to the students and families of Washington Middle School and to improving the environment at Washington.

Due to our observations and staff reporting improvement in student behavior based on the actions taken in the spring, the District will continue and expand our support of the efforts described above. The District’s plan for next school year, with input from staff and community, includes additional school administrators and staff to provide support with counseling, ELL and special education services, family engagement, and student behaviors.

Specifically, in response to Ms. Kerstin Westcott’s statement to the Board of Education on June 5, 2017, first, I would like to state that Ms. Westcott is an excellent teacher. I know this because I have been in her classroom as recently as April of this year, during an unannounced visit, where I found students to be engaged in learning. I also visited Washington Middle School two other times in May, and at those times I did not witness behaviors that would have raised concerns. So it is with deep sadness that Kerstin had not shared her concerns with me prior to her resignation in June.

I do think it is important to note that Washington Middle School staff and its students have many wonderful achievements and much to be proud of and we ask for our community's support as we continue to ensure student success and a positive school culture for all.

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