She doesn't even go here

Leaked poll results show Worcester teachers don't actually like having cops in schools after all

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I am breaking a little bit of news. 

You may remember that Roger Nugent, the president of the teachers union here in our fair city, went on record saying that the majority of teachers support having cops in schools.

Well, guess what, they don’t!

Through various means including but not limited to sorcery and deceit, I got my hands on a copy of an internal poll the union took on school resource officers, Black Lives Matter, and other related issues. Nugent did the poll after pressure from union members who said hey, wait a minute, are you absolutely sure that the majority of teachers support cops in schools? 

Only 33 percent do, it turns out. That’s not a majority! Not even close! On the other hand, 42 percent said they do not, another 6 percent said they’d prefer someone other than a cop doing that job, and another 6 percent said they’d like the resource officers to only be part time. Thirteen percent said they don’t have an opinion. So that’s the majority of teachers right there saying they’re either firmly against or at least ambivalent to cops in schools. Sort of the exact opposite of what Nugent told the Telegram. I have it on good authority that this poll got about 1,000 responses, so that’s a pretty decent sample size.

Check the whole poll here

I’m trying to embed it but apparently that is beyond the ability of my silky smooth brain. So here are some more screenshots.

When I last talked to Nugent, he told me his statement to the Telegram about the majority of teachers was based on anecdotal conversations with some teachers. Sort of a stunning admission in my opinion. He basically said yeah, that’s how me and my friends feel so that’s gotta be how the majority of teachers feel. Irresponsible to say the least. Between this and Nugent’s cozy relationship with the superintendent, is this really the person we should be trusting to advocate for teachers during what is certainly the most trying time for teachers in recent memory?  

This poll was conducted months ago and the fact it was never released is deeply fishy. I’d venture to guess if the results went the other way, Nugent would have happily thrown it up. Instead, we have to rely on some asshole like me to make this public. 

Let me just pause for a minute to say that if this post is interesting to you I love that and I can say pretty safely that I’m the only journalist in this city that would care enough to dig deep on the intersection of BLM and union politics like this and I can do so because I work for myself and I make my own rules and I have my own priorities that are not dictated by web traffic and advertising dollars and some guy on a yacht profiting off my misery. I make my money off you direct and I write directly for you and I think that’s pretty cool. If you think it’s cool too consider subscribing please thank you!

As I’ve written about before, teachers are upset about this. Back in July, a group of 60 teachers put out a statement condemning Nugent for his statements and asking him to come out and publicly support Black Lives Matter. That hasn’t happened. In the poll, 53 percent said they want the EAW to make a public statement supporting Black Lives Matter, which they unsurprisingly have not. Teachers want their students of color to know that they have their backs and the union’s crappy stance on Black Lives Matter is getting in the way of that. I especially like this quote from my previous story on the issue.

“We want to let our students know we care and we’re there for them to understand their pain. Institutional racism happens everywhere and unfortunately we did one step forward and twenty back,” Yahaira Rodriguez, an educator and member of the group, told me.

Several teachers have complained to me in private that the poll was conducted hastily—teachers only had two days to respond—and the questions were stilted. That it was a hack job and still didn’t go the way Nugent wanted is very telling. It’s heartening to see that 77 percent of teachers say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, and only 7 percent said they do not. Less heartening, though, is that 66 percent said they support the Worcester Police Union. It’s sort of weird that a question about the Worcester Police Union is even on the survey, isn’t it?

This is yet another example of Worcester being a center-right political backwater, which is basically the whole point I’m trying to make every time I write a post. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, cities around the country have been reassessing the concept of school resource officers and outright banishing cops from schools. In Worcester, criticizing school resource officers is a politically untenable position. Very few elected leaders will go on record against SROs or the close to a million dollars we spend on them a year. This year especially, when the schools are facing a massive budget reduction, it would have been wise to reassess this program. The teachers union under different leadership could have led this charge. Why don’t we get rid of the cops before we get rid of any teachers? It’s a compelling case and it could have been made and the weight of the union could have been used to do some good. 

School resource officers are not just a waste of money, they are actively harmful, and this has been well documented time and time again. 

“Two Billion Dollars Later,” a 2019 study by Strategies for Youth on the ineffectiveness of cops in schools and the lack of regulation requiring training specifically calls out Massachusetts. 

(M)any police departments in Massachusetts provided no training to SROs, and that the content of training that is provided in some departments is arbitrarily determined by those charged with providing it. The lack of oversight, training, and definition in Massachusetts and elsewhere has led to wildly uneven enforcement across schools and districts—with predictably disparate impacts on children of color and children with disabilities.

Given these factors, it is no small wonder that the massive deployment of police in schools—untrained to work with youth, and largely ignorant of the needs and legal protections of uniquely vulnerable school populations, such as students with special needs—prompted a surge in unnecessary escalations of police/student interactions and high rates of use of force and arrest, particularly against youth of color and students with disabilities.

In Worcester, we have a huge problem with disparities in discipline rates between white students and students of color. We also have a lot of school resource officers. Hm. We have a superintendent and an administration in general that wants more of them. Last year Binienda pushed for a full time officer at Claremont Academy. “Personally, I think it’s a good idea,” Binienda is quoted in the Telegram saying. “There’s quite a lot of crime going on (in that neighborhood).”

Jesus. 

But we can change this. Teachers can change this. The teachers union, by its sheer size of membership, has vast and mostly untapped political pull in this city. I know there’s a coalition of union members trying for an internal revolution to get the union flexing its muscle and actively sticking up for teachers. If you’re disheartened by the union’s leadership and you’re a teacher, you should get more involved in the union. Change it from within. Make Nugent, Binienda and company bow down and kiss the ring. A strong union can do more damage than any one school committee member, and it’s easier to change the union than it is to change the school committee, unfortunately. Those ghouls aren’t going anywhere so long as the townie coalition that keeps them in power remains—and it surely will remain.

The union can be a powerful vehicle for change. Look at Chicago. The teachers union there went on strike for 11 days last year and got a contract that ensures a nurse and a social worker in every school. Earlier this month, they threatened to strike again over the administration’s plan to do in-school teaching. Hours later, the district went remote. A teachers union can have serious muscle if it wants to and if it’s led by the right people and if members care about it. 

In Worcester, we don’t have that. Our teachers and especially our kids deserve so much better. 

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You may have noticed that I have not written about the primary and that’s definitely on purpose. It’s my opinion that there are far more pressing issues at hand and they’re all outside the bounds of electoral politics and the Kennedy Markey race is just a depressing and pointless waste of time, energy and money when we should be focused on oh I don’t know a deadly pandemic and a once-in-a-generation moment of social upheaval. 

That said this is hilarious.

A real man of the people!

Ok, that’s all for today kiddos. I’ll have another post later this week that involved even more sorcery and deceit so stay tuned for that! Please consider signing up for a subscription if you haven’t already that would be very good for me and I will love you like a puppy I will be a very good boy. 

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In other news this song goes and I’m putting together a playlist of stuff like that and I’ll share it here when it’s done.