Cahokia teacher says she's afraid to return to work after altercation with student

News-DemocratDecember 30, 2013 

Wirth Middle School teacher Vivian Scott talks about why she is refusing to return to work after feeling threatened by a student at the school.

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Teacher Vivian Scott, 46, of East St. Louis is afraid to return to work at the Eighth Grade Academy in Cahokia following an altercation with a student.

"I'm afraid for my life," she said.

Cahokia Unit School District 187 Superintendent Art Ryan said Scott should not be concerned for her safety.

"The student is not in her classroom," he said. "She doesn't have to deal with him."

The student is in a different eighth-grade class that is housed in a classroom right next door to hers, according to Scott.

The incident happened on Sept. 13 when Scott and another teacher were overseeing students who were not permitted to attend the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program that afternoon.

When asking the students to be quiet, Scott said the eighth-grade male student cussed her out and threatened her. Scott told the student to go to the office, but he wouldn't leave the classroom.

"He came charging at me to attack me. All I could do was stand behind that podium, stay still and be calm," she said. "I just know God told me to stay behind that podium. Two feet before he got me, he stopped. I know it was nobody but God that stopped him."

Scott has been off work on family medical leave since October. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident with the male student on Sept. 13; though Scott said she must return to work by Jan. 23 or face losing her teaching position for job abandonment.

She said she wants to go back to work, but is concerned for her safety and the safety of others at the school. The male student who threatened her was not expelled and was permitted to return to the school on Sept. 30 following a 10-day suspension.

"When my principal came to inform me he (the student) was in the building, I began to sweat, itch and become uneasy. I've never had this experience before. I couldn't really focus on my students," she said. "I couldn't work in this kind of environment."

Scott doesn't feel the punishment fit the seriousness of the situation as students typically get 10-day suspensions when they have a violent incident involving a peer. She said she would like the student removed from the school whether it be by expulsion or requiring homebound schooling and rehabilitation services.

"If we don't, what message are we sending to the student body?," Scott asked. "You rule. You can attack, you can threaten, you can cuss out a teacher; and you'll get the same consequences as you do for your own peer."

Ryan said he couldn't discuss the details of the situation since it involves a student. "The district dealt with it an appropriate manner," he said, noting the student's actions didn't warrant expulsion. "If we expel a student every time a teacher wants us to, we wouldn't have any students."

Scott said she didn't file a police report, because she thought school administrators would. "I was so shaken up I couldn't think straight," she said.

In her 12 years of teaching, Scott had never seen a student act like that. "By age, he was a child, but he looked very demonically possessed," she said. "He was just going crazy; it was as if he was being controlled by an evil demonic spirit."

Eventually, the student did leave the classroom and go to the office, but she said, "he kept the threats going on."

"My life has never been threatened," Scott said. "I have never experienced this before. I've never ever wanted a child expelled."

Scott was referred to a counselor through the employee assistance program. "I was diagnosed with PTSD, because of the trauma I had been in," she said.

Scott misses her students and working with them everyday. "I like the challenge of helping them make better choices and decisions not just in math, reading and writing, but in their everyday walk," she said.

Scott said the student did apologize to her when he was forced to by his father, but "he wasn't remorseful at all."

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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