Some Gildersleeve Middle School teachers say they feel unsafe in building

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A group of Gildersleeve Middle School teachers asked the Newport News School Board on Tuesday to take action after a recent school fight and an incident that left an administrator injured.

A district spokesperson confirms with 10 On Your Side that there was a fight between two students in the hallway at Gildersleeve on Nov. 1 and that no one was injured during the altercation. However, following the incident, an assistant principal was injured when he slipped and fell, the spokesperson said.

“What I am seeing on a day-to-day basis, in my humble opinion, is an escalating crisis for both students and staff,” said Cindy Connell, an eighth-grade teacher at the school.

An escalating crisis that resulted in what teachers say is a volatile situation for students and staff.

“Never in those 20 years have I ever felt as stressed and as unsafe as I have felt this school year,” Connell explained to the school board during Tuesday’s meeting, citing the pandemic as a cause.

Connell recalled several staff members and security officers trying to deescalate the situation involving the students to no avail. That’s when she said one of the school’s assistant principals was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital, which contradicts that the division spokesperson said the assistant principal’s injury was not related to the student altercation.

Lisa Scheiderer, who also teaches as Gildersleeve, read a letter to the board written by the building’s longtime School Resource Officer Robbin Padgett.

“Teachers and students screaming for help. Another principal in a state of panic hearing calls on the radio to call the police, call an ambulance, then an officer on the floor at this point for quite some time struggling and afraid to give up control because the situation was so volatile,” Scheiderer said.

The teacher said the student was ultimately restrained in handcuffs after making threats to students and teachers.

“‘As soon as I’m free I’m going to kill all of you, I’m going to shoot you in the face when you let me go’ and much more of the same. How were we to really know that this student wasn’t armed?” Scheiderer recalled.

The women asked the school board for solutions to resolve the tension and to reinstate Padgett who they say was removed from her position at Gildersleeve after the incident.

“We are horrified by her removal from our building as a result of this incident,” Connell concluded.

A Newport News spokesperson sent the following:

On November 1 at Gildersleeve Middle School, there was an altercation in the hallway involving two students. No injuries were reported. Following the altercation, an assistant principal was injured when he slipped and fell. The assistant principal’s injury was not related to the student altercation. The school was placed in a modified lockdown for a few minutes to clear the hallways and allow medical professionals to enter the building to care for the assistant principal. The students involved in the altercation were sanctioned for their behavior.

Later that evening, the principal sent the following message via email and phone call to all Gildersleeve parents:

“Good afternoon families. This is Janelle Spitz, principal of Gildersleeve Middle School, calling to inform you about a safety measure that took place today.

“This afternoon, following a student altercation, a staff member was injured. Our school went into a modified lockdown for about 25 minutes to clear the hallways and allow medical professionals to enter the building. While no students were injured, our leadership team is thoroughly investigating this incident. The students involved will be sanctioned in accordance with the Code of Conduct in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.  The students involved are facing serious consequences.

“The safety and security of our students and staff will continue to be our top priority. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. We value your support and partnership.”

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