Opinion

Video: Teacher brutally knocked unconscious by student, and that’s not the school’s only problem

A video of a substitute teacher sprawled in a high school hallway after being body-slammed to the floor is making waves, but it also raises at least one question about the quality of substitute teachers in American public schools.

According to the local NBC affiliate, the video was taken Thursday, after substitute teacher Pewu Johnson, a 68-year-old Liberian immigrant and 14-year veteran of substitute teaching, was attacked by a male student at Philadelphia’s John Bartram High School after Johnson ordered a young woman to get off the boy’s lap.

Leaving aside the attack for a minute, one thing the interview shows very clearly is that Johnson’s fluency in spoken English is limited.

He might be a brilliant man, and emigrating from Liberia to America takes a certain amount of initiative. But it’s really unavoidable to ask whether the ability to speak English clearly should be a requirement for teaching a class in English — especially to high school students in a dirt-poor, violent part of town.

Bartram has a violent reputation even in Southwest Philadelphia. According to Philly.com,  the deeply troubled school district – violence ridden, academically failing and financially essentially broke – went to great lengths this year to try to restore order.

After a particularly chaotic year last year — a conflict resolution specialist was knocked unconscious trying to resolve a conflict — it added more school police and a second principal to Bartram’s administrative arsenal.

But it doesn’t seem to have helped in at least one area. The attack on Johnson was the third on a teacher this year.

Reaction to the attack after the video was posted on Vine, ranged the spectrum from horrified to grimly humorous.

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