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St. Paul Teachers Discuss Strike Amid Rising School Violence

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Teachers are fighting back after a violent start to the school year in St. Paul.

Police say a 16-year-old boy attacked a teacher at St. Paul Central High School last week, putting him in the hospital with a brain injury.

It is one of nearly 30 reported attacks on school officials in Ramsey County this year.

The teachers' union -- the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers -- is engaged in contract negotiations with the district, and they have now taken the first step toward a possible strike over safety.

The union says it gave the district a list of proposals that will help decrease the violence, but the district says they would cost way too much money.

"I know what it's like to have to walk in the building every day and wonder what's going to happen today," SPFT President Denise Rodriguez said.

She says the violence prompted the union to file for mediation, which is the first step if the teachers want to strike.

"The word 'strike' puts a lot of fear in peoples' hearts as it should, and no one's saying that teachers are going to walk out," Rodriguez said. "Filing mediation is the first trigger that after 30 days after meeting with the state mediator, we have the right to file for strike or to take a strike vote. So, you know, I don't know where we are on that."

Rodriguez says the union gave the district 24 proposals, including adding more counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists.

St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva says she was surprised that the union chose to use mediation at this time while both sides are engaged in contract negotiations.

"It seems to me that we are moving in the right direction until today," Silva said.

She says she understands teachers' safety concerns, but what the union wants will cost millions of dollars that the district does not have.

"We as a district are committed to continue working in our contract negotiation, and we are very committed to finding ways together to create safe schools for both our students and our staff," Silva said.

The district says the union's proposals could cost them more than $11 million. The SPFT says they are waiting to hear from the Bureau of Mediation Services to figure out when all sides can sit down and iron out their differences.

The last three contracts between the union and the district resulted in mediation.

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