About 20 Perth Amboy Federation members met Feb. 13 at Samuel E. Shull Middle School to discuss safety concerns and unruly student behavior in the building and ways in which to address these issues.

The nearly hourlong afternoon meeting at Shull was led by PAF President Pat Paradiso, who was joined by district representative Lynn Audet and treasurer Josiah Santamaria. (All three teach at other schools in Perth Amboy.)

Attendees spoke about Shull students regularly engaging in disruptive and violent activities — many taking place in hallways and in gym class — that put teachers and security personnel in difficult disciplinary situations and, at times, in harm’s way. (Fearing possible retribution, the Shull-based PAF members did not want their identities revealed.)

“When you don’t have staffing, when you don’t have consequences … you have this mess,” said one Shull teacher.

Another teacher said, “If you have enough staff to make the kids in the hallway stay to the right and get to their classes, [the current 21-minute module schedule may make] sense. But if you’re short-staffed and don’t have enough people [preventing students from] knocking each other out, kicking each other, kicking the door, slapping the windows — this is what’s happening between periods.”

Some talked about Shull students bringing weapons into the school. Others spoke about a variety of problems related to cell phones, such as students playing loud music or sending texts during class. 

“We’ve just created an environment where students, they know what they can and cannot get away with. If they don’t like a teacher, they will mistreat that teacher and be abusive so that the teacher [ends up leaving],” a teacher said.

That same teacher later said, “If something doesn’t give, the morale is not going to get better.”

Moving forward, Paradiso stressed the need to get parents involved and asked the Shull personnel to provide her with contact information. She also told attendees they would soon be receiving a school safety and discipline climate survey in the mail, asking them to fill it out anonymously and return it in the provided stamped envelope.

Survey results will be shared with Shull school administrators, Central Administration, Perth Amboy Board of Education members and Perth Amboy Mayor Helmin Caba.

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