Education

Wichita teacher plans to return to class after threat

Shirley Rose, a science teacher at Christa McAuliffe Academy, has been on paid administrative leave since March 25.
Shirley Rose, a science teacher at Christa McAuliffe Academy, has been on paid administrative leave since March 25. File photo

A Wichita science teacher at the center of a controversy over school safety and student discipline will return to her classroom Thursday, teachers union officials said.

Shirley Rose, a teacher at Christa McAuliffe Academy, has been on paid administrative leave since March 25, saying she feared returning to the school after a student had threatened to shoot her. The eighth-grade student was suspended for two days.

United Teachers of Wichita said the district mishandled the threat.

Wednesday afternoon, the union, which represents Wichita’s 4,200 teachers in contract negotiations and other matters, released a statement saying Rose planned to return to McAuliffe rather than accept an alternative assignment as a permanent substitute.

“I refuse to allow this incident to stop me from teaching my students. However, I am deeply concerned for my safety,” Rose said in the written statement.

“Teaching should not carry with it a fear of losing your life. Considering the number of shooting incidents in recent years, I must take this threat seriously. I am willing and wanting to return to CMA. Just keep me safe!”

Steve Wentz, president of the union, had requested that the student who threatened Rose be placed in a structured alternative school for 45 days.

After a week-long investigation, district officials denied that request. Officials said they followed district policies as well as federal and state laws and “determined that no threat exists” at the school, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

In Wednesday’s news release, union officials noted recent improvements to school security such as controlled-access entryways, adding, “A safe learning and teaching environment does not end at the doors, it begins at the doors.”

“UTW contends the district did not take into account the vulnerability we all feel when confronted by the news of the most recent shootings,” the statement said. “When a student makes a lethal threat against a teacher, the response from the district must be better than, ‘We followed all the rules.’ 

It was unclear Wednesday whether the school planned to employ additional security measures. District spokeswoman Wendy Johnson said sharing that information would risk violating the student’s rights under federal law.

“Rest assured, based on all of the facts available pertaining to this situation, we feel confident that the school environment at Christa McAuliffe Academy will continue to be safe and focused on teaching and learning,” Johnson said in an e-mailed statement.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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