The PSEA has written a letter to Superintendent Brian Polito saying that the Erie Education Associations calls to address unsafe working conditions at Erie High have not been addressed, and the shooting incident inside the school on Tuesday is the result.

In the letter sent Tuesday by PSEA UniServ Representative Carolyn Funkhouser, the teacher's union says members will plan to teach in remote fashion as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic until there are "demonstrative efforts on behalf of the District," to make the conditions safe for teachers.

You can see the full letter here:

RE: Unsafe working conditions

Dear Mr. Polito,

As you may recall, on January 13 of this year we met in your office along with Mary Theuerkauf, Mike Beiter, and Neal Brokman for the sole purpose of discussing the unsafe working conditions at Erie High School specifically related to student abuse and violence. At that time, the Erie Education Association (“EEA”) provided the District with a list of items which needed to be immediately addressed, each of which was discussed in detail at that meeting.

Unfortunately, today the students and staff at Erie High School were deeply and traumatically impacted by the horrific choice of one student to smuggle a firearm into the building undetected and violently shoot a fellow student. When the EEA represents to the District that abusive and violent student behaviors are increasing and multiplying in frequency, that is simply because it is true. Staff and students are fundamentally unsafe at the High School, and other schools are quickly becoming that way as well.

While the EEA acknowledges the District’s managerial rights to direct the workforce, the EEA vehemently asserts that the District cannot legally direct EEA members to work from an unsafe and dangerous work environment. Without additional and demonstrative efforts on behalf of the District, as it currently stands, the High School is a fundamentally unsafe and dangerous work environment. Therefore, be advised that beginning immediately and until certain processes and safeguards are in place
to protect students and staff, the EEA membership shall be working remotely from home in the same way they did during district/building lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The staff will return to inperson instruction within the building when the following tasks have been accomplished:

  • Fully functioning locks on all interior doors to rooms in which a staff person is assigned, to include the ability to lock and unlock the door from within the room.
  • Fully functioning locks on all exterior doors to the building.
  • Fully functioning communication devices for every staff person (i.e. walkie talkies, phones, PA system, etc.)
  • An increase in security and/or police presence in highly visible and well-trafficked areas.
  • The installation of fully functioning metal detectors. Until that can be accomplished, all students shall be scanned with handheld electronic devices which detect weapons.
  • Clear, established procedures related to discipline and student behavioral interventions which are in writing and distributed to all staff. In addition, these procedures must be consistently applied and consistently enforced by all staff and administrators.
  • Written instructions for student removal procedures, distributed to all staff.
  • Fully functioning security cameras.
  • All EEA members shall have access to the “Behavior” tab in Infinite Campus for every currently enrolled student at the High School.

Once all of the above items have been resolved and after the staff have returned to working in the building, the EEA asserts that it is both necessary and imperative to work with the District to establish and/or implement the following:

  • A policy of no student cell phone use during class unless so instructed by the teacher, consistently
    applied and consistently enforced. Cell phones would ideally be locked up in bags during class so
    teachers are able to access them in cases of emergency or when necessary.
  • Security blinds on all exterior and interior windows at the High School.
  • Training for all staff regarding crisis and emergency situations.
  • On-site mental health support for staff.
  • Uniforms for students, including clear backpacks/bags.
  • Routine emergency drills for staff and students, more frequently while new technology/resources/processes are being installed/implemented.
  • Implementation of programs which focus on restorative practices, particularly at the middle school levels where interventions and assistance may be more effective in younger years and may help prevent escalating behaviors as children age.

The EEA will also continue to work with and through the existing High School Safety Committee which, as you know, meets routinely and consistently. The EEA requests that the District grant the Safety Committee the authority to instigate immediate action and tangible improvements in a timely manner.

The EEA acknowledges that the Board of Directors and the Administration have no desire to create, allow, or maintain a district in which acts of violence are pervasive and result in severe bodily harm to staff and students, or worse.

To that extent, the EEA is hopeful that the District will receive this letter in the spirit of collaboration and unity in which it is intended. Both the District and the EEA share the common goal of high-quality, transformative education in a safe, nurturing environment. The EEA hopes to come together to find permanent and lasting solutions to these deeply troubling problems. If you have any questions or wish to discuss further, please feel free to contact me.