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'Room Clear' is the norm at Arizona schools. But it's taking a toll on educators and students, teacher says

Posted at 6:56 AM, Oct 08, 2019

PHOENIX — Playing out across all public schools in Arizona, the term "room clear" is becoming all too common the case for students and teachers.

"The students, unfortunately, know the procedure very well. When you say 'clear the room,' everyone gets up, everything is left behind, they just get up and they go," said an Arizona teacher who wished to remain anonymous. The teacher shared detailed information about what happens in the classroom; information not always shared with parents or others in the community.

"Clear the room" is the cue words a teacher uses when she calls administration for help and when she or he evacuates a classroom when a student is displaying physical attacks on himself, others, the teacher or destroying the classroom.

"It happens regularly," the teacher said. "Last year it happened a lot."

"I've been hit, I've been kicked, I've been choked. That was the most scary one actually," the teacher said. "A couple of times I had to clear the room and everyone had to leave so we could handle the one student needing the support, which isn't fair because nobody is learning at that point."

The teacher adds that the situation shows itself in all grade levels. A "clear the room" can be prompted by a kindergartner throwing a tantrum, kicking and destroying property, to a junior high student tackling his or her teacher, as was the case for this teacher.

"I wasn't willing to allow him to sacrifice his face so I sacrificed my body to protect him. He asked me if I was alive after we went through the wall and when I responded, 'yes, and I'm hurt I said can you please get off me?' and the student stood up and he apologized and then he spit on me," she said.

There are strict rules in place when a teacher has to clear the room.

"You can't fight back, you just kind of have to take it or try to divert the movements of the student or block without causing any harm to the student," she says.

The lessons and the learning, she says, become secondary.

"The kids go out to the hallway, they wait. They either wait for someone to take them to another classroom or outside, and they might get an extra recess time and put them in a safe place," the teacher said.

KNXV reached out to several districts, all of which told us clearing the room is something they practice. The student acting out is left alone in the room, but monitored until he or she is able to calm down.

"Books become weapons, desks flip, everything comes off the walls, whatever the student can get when they're angry can be used as an object to harm somebody," the teacher added.

This teacher believes school counselors and funding for public education will be the key in getting the situation turned around.

"There needs to be funding for school counselors so we can help these students in a school setting," the teacher said.

This story was originally published by Karla Navarrete on KNXV.