The school district surveyed employees about safety after the February stabbing death of a student at Harding High School.
Most employees who work in the district’s high schools feel unsafe on the job, according to a St. Paul Public Schools survey conducted two weeks after the February stabbing death of a student.
Thirty-five percent of all district staff said they feel unsafe or very unsafe at work, but that number was 55 percent among high school staff.
The school board has held multiple listening sessions and parent meetings, and the district recently surveyed students and families, although the results are not yet available. The district declined an interview request about the staff survey, saying the information will be presented at a future board meeting.
Since the Feb. 10 stabbing, spokeswoman Erica Wacker said, the district has added more security staff at Harding, increased hallway supervision, implemented a digital hall pass system and assigned a part-time ombudsman to support students and families.
The survey hints at other safety measures the district is considering. Staff were given the following eight options to choose from, shown in order from most to least popular among high school staff:
• Stricter punishment for student behavior
• Police officers in schools
• More staff to monitor common areas
• Increased student mental health support
• Improved access control to buildings
• More security staff
• Increased communication about incidents
• More security cameras
Staff from elementary, middle and high schools all made stricter punishment their top choices. High school staff favored the return of police officers, while elementary and middle school staff were more interested in student mental health support and monitoring common areas.
Staff feel ‘helpless’
The survey also found 71 percent of all staff – excluding those who didn’t answer the question – had witnessed physical violence at school.
A summary from the district’s research staff said most employees in those situations “did not feel equipped to deal with (them) … were not satisfied with the outcome … and did not feel supported by their building administrators.”
“Staff often felt helpless to prevent, improve or resolve the situation,” the summary said.
From a menu of survey options, high school employees ranked weapons (40 percent) as their top safety concern, followed by student-on-student violence (23 percent).
Concerns were similar among middle school staff, although weapons ranked behind student-on-student violence.
At the elementary level, employees’ top safety concern was student attacks on staff.
Responding to a question about what they or other school staff could do to improve safety, many employees chose more active supervision during transition times and building strong relationships with students.
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