‘We’re outmatched’: Brockton teacher says violence, fights between students is getting worse

BROCKTON, Mass. — Cliff Canavan tried to break up a fight between students outside Brockton High School in Dec. 2022. He ended up breaking his arm instead.

“We flipped over the [tackle sled]. The student was on one side, I was on the other and the steel hit me in the arm and broke both forearm bones,” Canavan said.

The math and computer science teacher with 22 years of experience at Brockton High said the level of violence among students has progressively gotten worse over the last decade.

“We are outmatched,” Canavan said. “There are several fights every day throughout the school. Some of them are not too bad, some of them are quite horrific.”

Four members of the Brockton School Committee called on Mayor Robert Sullivan to ask Gov. Maura Healey for National Guard support amid safety concerns at the high school. Joyce Asack, Tony Rodrigues, Claudio Gomes, and Ana Oliver sent a letter to the mayor last week asking that he request temporary National Guard support from Healey “to assist in restoring order, ensuring the safety of all individuals on the school premises, and implementing measures to address the root causes of the issues we are facing.”

Sullivan said Monday he does not support the idea and Canavan doesn’t think it makes sense.

“I understand why they’re asking for the help, but I would really love clarification on what they expect them to do,” Canavan said.

Councilor-At-Large and former mayor Winthrop Farwell Jr. said the National Guard is not the answer.

“The National Guard is a military organization, people professionally trained to be soldiers. They’re not teachers, they’re not hall monitors. This [problem] is on us,” Farwell said.

Canavan blames a Brockton teacher shortage and state regulations in the “Chapter 222″ law that he said limits how administrators can discipline students. The law makes “exclusion from school a last resort,” but Canavan said it makes removing problematic students from the classroom almost impossible.

“Those kids causing trouble, they’re not going to classes anyway. They’re not taking advantage of their education while they’re here. They’re running around the hallways in the middle of class time, they’re doing drug deals in the bathroom, they’re staging fights in the stairwells because there are no cameras in stairwells,” Canavan said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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