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Teachers' Union: District Failed to Provide a Safe Environment for Students and Staff

As Marblehead Beacon reported yesterday, several staff members at Marblehead's Glover School were put on paid administrative leave as a result of an incident involving the restraint of a general education student. 


In response, the Marblehead Education Association (MEA)—led by co-presidents Jonathan Heller and Sally Shevory—issued a public letter to Interim Superintendent of Schools Theresa McGuinness expressing support for their union colleagues.


"An alarming number of educators at the Glover Elementary School have suffered physical injury caused by the dangerous behaviors of one or more dysregulated students," the letter states, and "despite repeated requests for resources and support from the Department of Student Services, the Marblehead Public Schools have failed to adequately respond or take any appropriate action whatsoever to prevent such incidents and ensure the safety of staff and students at the Glover School."


Referencing the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Article XVII of Marblehead's collective bargaining agreement as well as several other legally established standards, the MEA demands that "the Marblehead Public Schools meet immediately with the Union" and that "the Glover Elementary School student (and any other student or students) whose behavior has been documented to raise specific concerns about the infliction of bodily injury or other serious harm, including to themselves or other students, be immediately suspended from school and placed in an interim alternative educational setting until a mutually acceptable program to ensure the safety of students and staff can be developed." 


The letter also states that, "by its inaction, the Marblehead Public Schools has allowed an unsafe working environment to develop at the Glover Elementary School specifically, and, generally, among all the Marblehead Public Schools whose educators are subject to the lack of an adequate protocol for addressing such behaviors among students." While noting that "the Union in no way wishes to deny any student their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education" the MEA members explain that their responsibilities also extend to protecting students "whose education is disrupted when their peers become dysregulated and exhibit dangerous behavior."


Marblehead Beacon reached out to Interim Superintendent McGuinness to ask whether the student who required restraint at Glover was still present in the school following the incident. She replied that "student information of that nature is protected," though Marblehead Beacon has received unconfirmed reports that the student was still in school as of yesterday.


In addition to the teachers being placed on administrative leave, McGuinness also announced yesterday that Glover School principal Hope Doran would be out on medical leave for an unspecified length of time. Marblehead Veterans Middle School Principal Matthew Fox will be filling in at Glover, while Assistant Superintendent Julia Ferreira serves as acting principal at Vets. 


McGuinness told Marblehead Beacon that there was "no relationship" between Doran's departure and the incident involving the student who required restraint at Glover.


The Marblehead School Committee has a regularly scheduled meeting tonight, December 7, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. in the Marblehead High School library and also available on Zoom.


Update: 12/7/23 at 10:45 a.m.: The agenda for tonight's School Committee meeting was recently updated to reflect the addition of an executive session, in which the School Committee meets privately, without public participation, as allowed in certain circumstances defined by Massachusetts General Law. The updated agenda states that the executive session will be "to conduct strategy sessions with respect to collective bargaining requested, and litigation threatened, in the MEA letter dated 12/6/2023, where the Chair declares that an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the position of the Committee." The School Committee will not return to open session. Reached earlier today, School Committee Chair Sarah Fox told Marblehead Beacon that Interim Superintendent of Schools Theresa McGuinness will be offering an update to the community on the situation currently unfolding at Glover, as appropriate and allowed by guidelines protecting student privacy, during open meeting. Asked whether the student who needed to be restrained was still present at Glover, Fox replied that, "all of those elements are operational and therefore not within the purview of the School Committee." 


Editor’s note: School Committee member Jenn Schaeffner is a Marblehead Beacon founder and editor. She is recusing herself from Marblehead Beacon’s coverage of the School Committee and anything pertaining to Marblehead Public Schools.