Teachers Blast Unruly Students at New School 

click to enlarge Teachers at the $41 million Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School say a new building has done little to improve a disruptive and, at times, unsafe, school culture.

Scott Elmquist

Teachers at the $41 million Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School say a new building has done little to improve a disruptive and, at times, unsafe, school culture.

School Board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed says Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School administrators have ordered teachers not to contact her about a fiery email that went out last week blasting the learning environment at the school.

"That's not OK," Harris-Muhammed says. "[The email] deeply alarms me and I'm going to do all I can to make sure the truth comes out and we can move forward."

The teachers, identifying themselves only as staff of the school, blast unruly students and weak administrators in the May 14 email to Superintendent Dana Bedden.

"We the teachers of MLK can and will not tolerate the irreprehensible [sic] actions that are being committed by the administration and students," the email states.

Among other issues, the email says, students threaten teachers and wander the halls during class and that administrators are underreporting incidents.

The $41 million school opened in January as a central part of Mayor Dwight Jones' Building a Better Richmond campaign. Earlier this year he gave his State of the City speech in its auditorium.

A teacher who claims responsibility for the email says in a phone interview with Style Weekly that the discipline problems traveled from the decrepit former building into the new one, and that replacing the principal in February only exacerbated the situation.

"We've exhausted our attempts to have this culture rectified," the teacher says. "We really want the public to be made aware of what's going on. We want to put pressure on the School Board and the superintendent to make real changes in the school."

While Harris-Muhammed says she'll meet with teachers without administrators present, Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Cletisha Lovelace says Bedden will meet with both teachers and administrators.

"We take the concerns that were brought forward very seriously and remain committed to ensuring that all of our schools provide a safe learning environment for students and staff," Lovelace says in an email.

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