Anacostia High School teachers leave classes Friday demanding more transparency, building improvements

Several teachers at Anacostia High School in D.C. left their classrooms Friday to stage a workplace action as a result of frustration with their work environment.

Brandi Byrd, a ninth grade history teacher at the school, said a shooting nearby Wednesday night left damage to the school.

About 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, D.C. police responded to the school after receiving a report of sounds of gunshots, according to a police report. An investigation revealed the property had bullet holes and broken glass.

In a letter to the school community, Principal William Haith said damage occurred to the school’s main entrance when two bullets struck one of the front doors. While students were in the building for sporting events, Haith wrote, they weren’t present where the incident occurred and weren’t in danger.

The school has also been plagued by other issues in recent weeks, Byrd said. Sometimes, she said, there are bathrooms that lack running water.

So, on Friday morning, the teachers gathered in the auditorium while other union members watched their classes in the gym.

Dr. Carlene Reid, the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education, said over 35 teachers were gathered in the auditorium.

“We decided that as a staff that it wasn’t a good look for us to come through doors that still have bullet holes in it,” Byrd said. “And that this wasn’t a safe environment because everybody wasn’t made aware of what was taking place. We were concerned about some of the safety protocols that go on when there needs to be an emergency situation called.”

The school’s principal planned a meeting to discuss the matters Friday morning, Byrd said.

In a statement, the school system said, “The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. We are in touch with our teachers regarding their concerns and working to resume the school day. We remain in constant communication with the Metropolitan Police Department regarding the safety of our school neighborhoods.”

Instructional Superintendent JuDonn Deshields, Ward 8 Council member Trayon White and Washington Teachers’ Union President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons stopped by the school Friday afternoon, Byrd said.

In the note, Haith said, “I also want to take this moment to acknowledge the concerns our students, staff, and community have raised about instances of community violence and our collective response. It is important to call out and recognize that coping with the effects of violence is a difficult experience, and we want to ensure our entire community is both physically safe and has the mental health supports needed.”

In addition to highlighting school infrastructure issues, Byrd said, the teachers also sought to express their disappointment in the school system’s coronavirus protocols. The spike in coronavirus cases before winter break coupled with the lack of flexibility for virtual learning left teachers frustrated, she said.

“I would love to see them fix the things outside of this building,” Byrd said. “I would love to see them support our students, when they are going through some pretty traumatizing events within the community, and then having to come to school and it’s kind of like business as usual. They need additional support.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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