FORT WASHINGTON, Md. — The yards outside Potomac Landing Elementary School in Fort Washington are supposed to be a safe place, yet teachers are sharing photos and accounts of getting injured on school grounds.
"As soon as I got ready to take her into the office, she hit me and would not stop. So I tried to restrain her. While I was trying to restrain her. Her sister jumped in, cursed at me as well jumped on me. I slipped and I fell, and when I slipped and fell, they were both just hitting me. The younger sister kicked me in my head," music teacher Renee Calloway recalled of a May 2023 incident. "The oldest was 12 and her sister is 10."
For that attack, Calloway said the student who kicked her head received a suspension: "20 days at the end of the school year, that's an early summer vacation."
Other Prince George's County Public School teachers WUSA9 talked with reported being punched or otherwise assaulted by students.
"Too often – way too often. And students are allowed to act out," added teacher Kesha McCoy.
Calloway and other teachers started a new group they call “SafeTeach23.”
McCoy said, "We have to make every concerted effort to protect teachers so that we can be there to actually teach students."
Prince George’s County Public Schools says it's expanding professional counseling and therapy services for students at "high-needs schools."
In a statement, the district wrote, in part: "We ask that parents and guardians remind their child of the serious disciplinary actions that can result from physically harming peers and adults."
But Maryland law now forbids any court punishments for children under 13.
"There are individuals who are young, who commit violent offenses against teachers, that, based on the new state laws, will not be referred for prosecution. And so that is an issue that prosecutors are taking up with the state," said State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
Braveboy is telling Maryland's Judiciary Committee more needs to be done to restore legal discipline for assaults by children under 13 years old yet keeping those children out of the court system.
"I'm hoping to tell the Judiciary Committee is that we need change. That we agree, ultimately with the goal of rehabilitation. We may disagree on how we achieve it," added Braveboy.
Wounds heal, but Calloway has the fear that without the root cause of student violence being fixed, what is supposed to be a safe space for all, becomes a hostile workplace.
Calloway said, "I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that I now have severe anxiety and PTSD going into the school, to the school building. But I had to know that it's okay, like this is now my new reality."
The teacher’s group “SafeTeach23” plans to hold a rally outside the next Prince George’s County School Board meeting Sept. 21.