Richmond teacher refuses to give up after being threatened by students

RICHMOND, Va. – One month after a video of a Richmond teacher’s emotional outburst inside of his own classroom made international headlines, Keith Browne is speaking out.

Browne was teaching visual arts at George Wythe High School, when a group of students barged into his classroom.

“The reason why they came into my classroom is because of someone in the party was related to someone in my class… to either get him or get his belongings,” said Browne.

Keith Browne

Browne said he repeatedly told the students to leave.

“Please get out of my classroom, get out of my classroom, which turned into, get out of my classroom in a very accelerated yell,” said Browne.

He said the students started to threaten him.

“They had the power to…. hurt me real bad,” said Browne. “There was an incident… a large fight. The security was calling it a melee of sorts on the floor above me.”

As he continued to tell the students to leave the room, the torment continued.

“We don’t deserve to be treated that way by anyone,” said Browne. “I’m tired of it. This type of stuff is uncalled for… I don’t know how really people take that.”

george-wythe

As the back and forth continued, the situation escalated. “I was next on their list of people to fight,” said the Richmond teacher.

“They said if you don’t stop talking to me like that… one actually said himself ‘I am going to F… you up.’ I responded by telling them that would be a bad idea,” said Browne.

Browne’s emotional outburst was captured on a cell phone camera.

“I have been threatened multiple times. I don't come here to put my life in danger from other people's nonsense,” said Browne in the cell phone video.

The video shows an upset Browne leaving the classroom, with students following him into the hallway.

Eventually, he says security arrived to help.

While Browne wasn’t physically hurt, he says the weeks since the experience have been difficult.

“I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety from the situation, especially after the footage was released,” said Browne.

Keith Browne

Keith Browne

That incident happened on a Wednesday. Browne said it was not until the following Monday that he met with school administrators.

“They felt bad and they were sorry,” he said.

But Browne says this wasn’t the first time that he’s been threatened in the school.

“I've been told that I better not be caught going out to my car in the parking lot. I've been told, I better not see you outside of school,” said Browne.

Richmond School Board Member Kim Gray says teacher bullying is very frustrating at every level.

"We've had many teachers leave because they didn't feel safe in the classroom,” said Gray.

Kim Gray

Kim Gray

She says classroom bullying and even more violent school-related incidents can often be linked to gang activity.

"What does this say about teacher safety?” asked CBS 6 reporter Sandra Jones.

“I think that overall statistically teachers are safe, but there are instances where students react in a violent way or in a bullying way towards our teachers,” said Gray.

CBS 6 did some digging into the number of student offenses against Central Virginia school staff that did not involve a weapon.

In Richmond, Jones found there were 74 reported incidents for this school year, compared to 97 reported the year before.

Henrico County Public Schools reported 10 incidents for this school year and last year.

Chesterfield County Public Schools had no reported incidents.

richmond-stats

 

Gray says RPS teachers and staff are going through training on how to handle violent students.

"We are trying to educate our teachers on how to identify when a child is acting out based on trauma's that they're experiencing at home or in their communities and address it head on,” she said.

Browne says that some of the students who threatened him were suspended or expelled.

But the unnerving situation won’t keep Browne away from the classroom, thanks to the overwhelming amount of support from his colleagues and students.

"When I had kids come to me and tell me ‘thank you for not leaving. That was messed up. That was bad what happened,’” said Browne.

“Parents personally finding me through social media, and saying ‘I'm so and so's mother. She says great things about you’ or ‘I met you at back to school night.’”

“We’re not going to strive as a city if we give up on our kids and their education,” said the George Wythe teacher.

Last year, RPS created a workplace bullying policy for teachers, staff, parents and even students to report incidents anonymously.

It helps school administrators track incidents in hopes of cracking down on the violence to keep teachers safe in the classroom.

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