Substitute teacher attacked at school is dismissed

A substitute teacher who was assaulted by a student after the teacher took his cellphone away is reportedly no longer being allowed to work in St. Paul schools.

Candice Egan, who was subbing at Creative Arts school in St. Paul, went to the Pioneer Press with her story last Friday after the incident.

Egan said she decided to speak out, after a reporter contacted her, because she hopes the school district and parents “will acknowledge that something’s really wrong and changes will be made in policy.”

She said she sees students who are out of control and who don’t face consequences for their behavior, which she thinks makes for dangerous situations. But more often than not, Egan said she “sees so many wonderful things and lovely kids” in the St. Paul schools.

Egan, who is employed by a company called Teachers On Call, tells City Pages that she reported the assault to the school’s principal, but she’s been told she’s no longer welcome in St. Paul schools. Her supervisor also said she shouldn’t have contacted the media.

“It really sucks to not have any income,” Egan told City Pages. “I’m really good at my job, and the schools where I sub a lot, I have handfuls of kids come up to me to give me hugs, and tell me they love me… I work really hard at connecting with kids, and trying to make a difference. I don’t want to go get a job at Target.”

There have been several incidents of students attacking teachers in the St. Paul system this year. One left a Central High teacher unconscious, another in December injured a St. Paul Central teacher. A loaded gun was found in a student’s backpack at Harding High School in October. And earlier this month a Como Park teacher reported that two students punched him and threw him to the ground.

The incidents come in the wake of a change in discipline policy aimed at curbing suspensions in the school.

[Update 4:13 p.m. – Statement from school department released]

Saint Paul Public Schools has a teaching staff of over 3,200. Because of the size of the district, substitutes are present in schools on a daily basis.

SPPS uses an outside vendor, Teachers on Call, to employ the substitute teachers it requires. While Teachers on Call does a great job of meeting district needs, there are not contracts with individual substitute teachers that guarantee placement.

Candice Egan works for Teachers on Call and is not an employee of SPPS. That means she cannot be fired from SPPS. Teachers on Call can choose to deploy Ms. Egan to other school districts.

The situation with Ms. Egan is unusual in that it involved a dispute with a student that led to a police report. The district is reviewing the situation. It is a practice of SPPS to not ask substitutes back to work during an ongoing police or district investigation, as is the case with Ms. Egan.

Further, the district has the right to request that substitutes not be placed in its schools. There are various reasons why substitutes may not be asked to work for the district. Talking to the media is not one of them.

Related: Teacher injured in Central High attack was at fault, district alleges (Star Tribune)

  • tboom

    You have a call in and will update when you hear back … that they won’t comment due to their privacy policy.

    • I’m aware of that. You still have to make the call.

      • tboom

        I knew that you knew, and even though I’m not a journalist I guess I knew that you had to ask anyway.

        I just wanted to point out the absurdity … I’m not really sure which absurdity: the absurdity of a public entity financed with public money continually able to hide any number of failed policies behind the broad cover of “privacy” or the absurdity of having to ask for comment when everyone knows the answer will be “we can’t comment due to privacy concerns”.

    • tboom

      My bad in jumping to the conclusion that SPPS would invoke privacy and not comment on this incident. However as I read the statement, although I doubt anything is actually false, I find their reasoning twisted.

  • kevins

    Ouch! (on several levels)

  • PaulJ

    Schools seem to be a microcosm of society: lax authority leads to crime, strict authority leads to corruption, and distributed authority requires co-operation (good luck with that).

  • crystals

    Brutal situation. The district can’t say anything about what did or did not happen, and how it has impacted this person’s employment, so the only narrative out there is the sub’s. I wish we could hear from the student and others involved, but that’s not likely to happen and it means we’re missing a lot of information about what took place in that classroom.

    Separate from the alleged assault is the matter of how things got to to this point in the first place. If office staff and/or school police officers are being called on a regular basis to help maintain order (for things like asking students to put their tech away), there are a number of things going on that are not quite right.

  • Gary F

    Time for the folks in St Paul to start looking for private schools. Many of them have financial aid and programs to help people pay for tuition. Or better yet, move.

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      Better yet, tie welfare benefits to student achievement/attendance. No school can replace parenting. Lack of parenting, largely a result of the large numbers of people who have kids, but don’t have the financial means or emotional maturity to support them, is at the core of failing, inner city schools.

      • kevins

        Agree, but we need to go back farther in the timeline. Primary prevention pays off…just ever soooo slowly.

      • KenB

        What does public assistance have to do with this story?

        • Gordon near Two Harbors

          It all ties together. These things don’t occur in isolation.

          • crystals

            It all ties together, how exactly? Do you actually have ANY direct evidence to support your claim that welfare benefits and parental involvement are a meaningful factor in St. Paul discipline cases?

          • Gordon near Two Harbors

            Yes. Personal observations. Kids that are raised to respect authority and work hard in school tend to be the product of parents who do/did the same. A system that only makes excuses for low student achievement and poor discipline, while not holding parents accountable, only maintains the status-quo.

          • crystals

            Your personal observations (near Two Harbors?) are not the same thing as direct evidence of whether THIS student’s family is or is not involved, and whether they do or do not receive welfare benefits. People who are not rooted in what’s actually happening within specific schools and communities continue to try and act as judge and jury about who our students are, who their families are, and what they need in our education system. Enough.

          • Gordon near Two Harbors

            I grew up in Minneapolis and attended public schools from K-12. Although I don’t know this SPECIFIC case, there has been a pattern of violence and mis-behavior for a long time now. A friend of mine worked in the St. Paul schools (east side) and found the same problems there–and they are getting worse.

          • crystals

            Sure, but this still doesn’t answer how you’re justifying your initial claim that this is somehow all tied to welfare, and that linking welfare benefits to student achievement and/or discipline would somehow have a positive effect. This feels like an eerily similar argument to the one used by people who felt welfare recipients should be drug tested, assuming that there are crazy rates of drug use in that demographic. Look how that turned out.

          • Gordon near Two Harbors

            From my experience–and I see it here in northern Minnesota, as well–there is a disproportionate discipline problem with kids that come from poor, usually single-parent families that get a significant amount of public assistance–usually because of poor choices they have made. Is this always the case? No. Ultimately, parents have WAY MORE influence on their kids than a school ever can. But, of course, schools are usually held to blame for student misbehavior or lack of achievement.

      • DavidG

        And how do we punish the family of the out of control kid from a middle class family not receiving welfare benefits?

  • Anna

    Teachers both regular and substitute have a difficult time controlling cell phone use in the classroom. It is the bane of our existence and because they are so ubiquitous, it would take a monumental effort to ban their use in schools.

    I teach in four school districts and all of them have policies regarding the use of cell phones in the classroom. Some leave it up to the individual teacher to decide when cell phone use is appropriate i.e. accessing the Internet to research a topic or to watch a video related to the topic at hand. Some restrict use to passing times between classes and at lunch (high school and junior high). At the primary and upper elementary level, cells phones are not allowed—period.

    Without written instructions and details about individual classroom rules, it is sometimes a struggle to decide when to intervene. If I suspect a student is surfing the Internet, I will call them out but I don’t take the phone away unless the student is being extremely disruptive. I will take down the student’s name and make a written report to the regular classroom teacher. If a later issue arises about completion of classroom assignments, I’m covered.

    Your safest course of action is to know what the district policy is regarding student use of cell phones in school and follow it—religiously. If a confrontation occurs, you quote district policy. All students receive a handbook that details district policies and that includes cell phones. It is their responsibility to know what is in the student handbook.

    I feel for Ms. Egan but there are lots of school districts that need good subs. If she gives an honest account about what happened, she should not have a problem finding another substitute gig.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    Another example of punishing the teacher, while violent, disrespectful student behavior gets excused. Is it any wonder why so few teachers want to teach in inner city schools?

  • Jim in RF

    It’s never cool to go to the media with your work issues. Very poor judgment, and it makes you look like a publicity hound.

  • Dan

    Not a surprising story given the school district, unfortunately. But hey, I’ll bet those suspension stats look great.

  • Tootyfruity

    Put this story together with another from today: that SPPS admin claims that Central High School teacher John Ekblad was at fault for injuries he sustained breaking up a student fight late last year.

    As a parent in this district, I have heard teachers say for the last five years how punitive they find the current administration. Special Ed teachers who spoke up during the mismanaged mainstreaming of special ed, were removed from long-term teaching assignments and stuck in jobs that had them hopping all over the district. Parents at our school actually witnessed Superintendent Silva, mistaking one of us for a teacher, threatening to fire the parent for having the gall to question Silva’s decision to move 6th grade to middle school.

    Valeria Silva needs to go, and with her, the black-suited assistant superintendents who stride, en mass, into our schools, to “assess things,” without bothering to actually talk to the teachers, aides and staff who work there.