COLUMBIA, S.C. — A former public school teacher of 12 years who left her job in January for reasons that include the lack of discipline of students recently showed reporters a list of goals that a fifth grader wrote, number one being that he wanted to kill her. She believes that the education system is broken and that something must be done to place responsibility back on the parents.
Susan Barnes, formerly Susan Turner, showed a photocopy of the child’s writings to the local outlet The State last week, explaining that she had been alerted by another child about the potential threat. The situation took place last year on field day.
“One of my students came up to me and said, ‘Ms. Turner, have you seen this little boy’s note? He says he’s going to kill you.’ And I’m like, ‘What?!'” she recalled.
Barnes then confronted the child and he claimed that he had thrown the paper away. However, when she began to press the issue and ask which trash can it was in, he eventually pulled the paper out of his pocket and gave it to her. At the top was written “My Will,” with a list of five goals.
“When I read it, I stopped at number one really. Number one said, ‘Kill Ms. Turner,'” Barnes said.
Other goals on his list included “sell my house,” “become a stripper” and “goal to jail.”
She immediately marched him into the building.
Whether the boy was serious or not, Barnes told The State that the situation was a tipping point for her to get out of the teaching profession. She had already been struggling with anxiety and depression from the various stressors to the point where her doctor wrote her a prescription for Xanax.
Barnes outlined that she keeps the prescription in her daily planner as a reminder of the life she left.
“I never filled that prescription, and I see it every day to remind me, that’s what I walked away from,” she stated.
While lack of discipline isn’t the only reason she left her job, Barnes says that in her 12 years of teaching, she has seen administrators be too lenient with students who misbehave.
“These kids do not get punished. They have cell phones. They have internet. They have laptops that the school lets them take home and the parents don’t monitor them or can’t,” she stated. “Until the government can find a way to put responsibility back on the parents, our education system will remain broken.”
Barnes says that she doesn’t believe that the fifth grader who wrote the “kill Ms. Turner” goal faced any significant consequences other than being sent home with excused absences.
The district declined to comment on the specifics of the teacher’s claims other than to state that progressive discipline is utilized according to the student code of conduct before any other action is taken.
As previously reported, last year, a Wisconsin teacher resigned from her job in providing emotional testimony during a board meeting about the increasingly out-of-control violent and sexually harassing behavior of students.
“We are in danger every day [that] we show up to our school. Students and staff are physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally and sexually abused every single day in the building,” Washington Middle School sixth grade teacher Kerstin Westcott told the Green Bay School Board on June 5. “This environment cannot be allowed to continue.”
She said that teachers are daily cursed at and called “vile, crude and sexual names.” She offered copies of a page-long list of remarks that students had made in just the last two days.
Wescott also noted that some teachers have been injured trying to break up physical fights, including one teacher who was taken away in an ambulance.
“Another teacher was physically attacked by students trying to set off a deadly allergic reaction on purpose, causing her throat to close and her to struggle to breathe,” she mourned.
“Just last week a student told multiple people multiple times that ‘I’m going to shoot up everyone in this school,’” Wescott grieved. “Is it going to take someone getting killed for you to finally take the drastic action that is needed?”
The State notes that last September, five South Carolina teachers spoke to lawmakers about the various struggles and concerns in the teaching profession, including Spanish teacher Vanessa Torres.
“Imagine seeing a 200-pound student chase down one of your teachers and punch her in the face and break her glasses—and continue to punch her,” she stated, advising that the teacher who was beaten quit her job after the student received minimal punishment.
“Why is the devaluation of teachers happening? It’s because we are allowing this kind of disrespect. Would you want to become a teacher if you saw that, if you saw your teacher treated that way?” Torres asked.