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Classrooms in Crisis: Thousands of educators rally in Salem

Thousands of educators and parents rallied in Salem today calling for legislators to fully fund education in Oregon.

SALEM, Oregon — Thousands of educators and parents rallied in Salem on Monday calling for legislators to fully fund education in Oregon.

More than 4,500 people attended The Oregon Education Association organized event.

Teachers want smaller class sizes, help from trained aides and more counselors.

"Our children deserve wrap-around services, that include treatment, counselors, care, and restoration," said 4th grade Portland Public Schools teacher Nichole Watson.

Watson said her small elementary school only has one counselor and many of her students are struggling with things like homelessness.

RELATED | Classrooms in Crisis: Verbal, physical, sometimes violent outbursts plaguing Oregon classrooms

"Imagine at some middle and high schools, students are showing up traumatized and impacted by regular things that happen in life," said Watson. "And they don't have someone to unpack that trauma with."

Michelle Eddie Milot said she's the only psychologist for 4,000 students in the Greater Albany Public School District.

Federal guidelines suggest one counselor to 250 students.

RELATED | Classrooms in Crisis: New statewide report calls student outbursts community issue

“Our students deserve better," said Eddie Milot. "In my neighboring districts of Corvalis, Lebaonon, Jefferson, Sweet Home, they don't even have school phycologists. They don't even employ them."

Teachers told KGW disrupted learning continues to be a huge problem in Oregon.

"I've had four students this year make suicide comments so 10-year-olds are coming to school with a whole suitcase filled with issues," said teacher Kathy Hamil.

Paraeducator Sydney Kasper held a sign shaped like a chair with the words "End Room Clears" written on it.

"Classrooms are in crisis as you guys have pointed out," said Kasper. "There are kindergartners throwing chairs in classrooms and it's not because they are bad kids, it's because they aren't supported."

Teacher Melinda Ryan was also at the rally. She's one of eight teachers in KGW's Classrooms in Crisis investigation into the rise of disruptive incidents in schools across Oregon.

Ryan said she's glad the problem is being talked about, now they need money for solutions.

"So we can have more trained staff on site to support our students and teachers," said Ryan.

Representative Barbara Smith Warner agrees.

The joint education committee member says they are working on a proposal for a dedicated revenue stream to fund schools.

"We're going to do this, this session. We're ready to go. I'm eager to get it done, everywhere I go, people ask, are we really going to do this, this year? And I say, yes, we are."

KGW has interviewed dozens of teachers and school administrators about an increase in verbal, physical and sometimes violent disruptions in Oregon and Southwest Washington classrooms. We’ve received emails from hundreds of additional teachers who tell similar stories. Many teachers say they don’t have the proper training, support or resources to deal with this disruptive behavior. The teachers don’t blame the kids, pointing out that many students have suffered trauma in their lives; however, they say the current law makes it difficult to handle these incidents effectively. In many cases they are forced to clear all other students out of a classroom until a disruptive student can calm down. We will continue to tell these stories and push for solutions from lawmakers and school officials. 

Do you have a comment or idea related to our Classrooms in Crisis coverage? Please email callcristin@kgw.com

Please share this link to our Classrooms in Crisis section to keep the conversation going. https://www.kgw.com/classrooms-in-crisis

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