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'Teachers don't feel safe' at Albemarle High School

After multiple reports of violent student behavior, an Albemarle High School employee says, "Teachers don’t feel safe."

Within one week, two students at the school were charged with crimes: one for punching a teacher in the face so hard they needed to seek medical treatment and another for issuing threats against students and teachers online via social media and email.

A teacher at Albemarle, who spoke with The Daily Progress on condition of anonymity in order to protect their job, said conditions at the school are much worse than those two isolated incidents, which the school division has said were unrelated to one another.

“Students are roaming halls unchecked," the teacher in an email. “Students are regularly cursing teachers out with NO repercussions. Consequences are inconsistently applied, if applied at all.”

Nearly identical circumstances were described at Charlottesville High School in the neighboring school district this past fall, just before a student brawl at that school prompted a police response and a teacher walkout that cut classes short days before the Thanksgiving break. Charlottesville High School has since hired a new principal, held teacher workdays to address the underlying issues contributing to the discord and discussed installing weapons detectors. The violence has died down, school division employees have said.

But at Albemarle High School, things appear to be worsening.

On March 22, as a teacher attempted to "redirect" a student in one of the school’s hallways, the student reportedly punched the teacher in the face so hard that they needed to seek medical treatment at the school nurse’s office.

In a message sent to parents about the assault, Albemarle Principal Darah Bonham said staff had to respond to a separate but similar "situation" earlier that day.

"In addition to this incident, we had another situation today where a student inappropriately touched a staff member in the face," Bonham wrote.

The school division would provide no additional details about the other "situation," other than to say the two were related.

However, the teacher who reached out to The Daily Progress disagreed with the characterization of the other "situation" as “inappropriate touching,” saying a world language teacher was slapped in the face.

Police were called on March 22, and the student, whose identity has been withheld due to their age, was charged with three three counts of assault.

A mere four days later, police were called to the school again.

At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Albemarle County school staff alerted police to a social media post and email that contained threats to students and staff at the school. Officers said they were able to identify the suspect, another student at the school, arrested them and charged them with making threats of death or bodily injury to persons on school property, a Class 6 felony in Virginia.

“The threat was communicated in writing (social media and email) which is why the charge is a Class 6 felony,” police spokeswoman Logan Bogert told The Daily Progress in an email. “The potential penalties for a Class 6 felony in Virginia can range from a 1–5-year sentence and/or a fine that can range up to a maximum of $2,500.”

The second student, whose identity has also not been disclosed because of their age, is currently being held at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center just south of Charlottesville.

Albemarle County police have said the incidents on March 22 and Tuesday do not appear to be connected.

Bonham has told parents that both students will face consequences on and off school grounds.

“I want to assure you that we take the safety and security of our students and staff seriously, and such incidents will not be tolerated in our school,” he said in his message to parents.

The teacher who spoke with The Daily Progress, though, said not enough has been done and that both incidents are part of a concerning rise in disorder at the school.

A few weeks ago, a chair was thrown at a teacher, they said. And on a separate occasion, a student entered a classroom twice without permission and “maliciously threw an uncapped water bottle across the room,” they said.

Albemarle County Public Schools reintroduced a school resource officer in the division last year after reports of fights, truancy, vaping and sexual misconduct at Albemarle High School. Officers had been removed from both Albemarle County and Charlottesville schools in 2020, with school officials citing their ineffectiveness and incidents of discrimination.

Funding was only authorized last year for a single officer to cover 11 schools in the Albemarle’s northern feeder pattern, which includes Albemarle High School.

Neither the school division nor Albemarle High School made any mention of a school resource officer in statements they provided regarding the two most recent incidents.

Administrators have assured teachers there would be “both administrator and student support presence in halls at all times,” the teacher who spoke with The Daily Progress said. However, that support has been inconsistent, they said, only occurring about half of the time.

“The first day, I personally called for support and nobody ever came to help me,” said the teacher. “If teachers don’t feel safe, how can students? If teachers don’t feel safe and supported, how can they do their jobs effectively?”


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