Teacher would rather be redeployed to Iraq than go back to the classroom

Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 3:25 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 9:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As a sergeant in the US Army Justin Bullock has endured demanding training, strict military discipline and even enemy fire, but nothing could prepare him for the stress and violence he faced as a teacher at Liberty Hill Academy.

“I have a lot of trauma now,” Bullock said.

He was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and was preparing to begin training to become a drill sergeant to instruct new soldiers. That future is now in jeopardy after suffering multiple injuries at Liberty Hill.

“I doubt that I will probably step my foot back inside a school in general for a very long time. I am terrified . . . I don’t want to get beaten anymore,” Bullock said. “I don’t want to get sexually harassed any more. I don’t want to fear for my life.”

Last month, Bullock attempted to break up a fight between two students and was punched in the head multiple times. He continued working but the next day went to the hospital where they took a brain scan and determined that he had a neck strain and was recovering from a concussion.

“By that Saturday, I was having major anxiety just like rethinking everything because I was also beaten in the back of my head in February 2021 by a student,” Bullock said. “I was also sexually harassed by a student who was also putting his hands on me and it took the school two and a half months to get him out of my classroom.”

Bullock was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His husband, Caleb Ferrell, says he doesn’t want Bullock to go back to work.

“Honestly, I get terrified sometimes. He wakes up at night and has a hard time sleeping. It’s honestly heartbreaking,” Ferrell said. “Sometimes I am afraid that he’s not going to come home after work.”

Liberty Hill Academy is an alternative school for special needs students and those with behavioral issues. Teachers and staff are given extra training, and Bullock has even taught at alternative schools in other districts, but he says they are wholly unprepared to deal with some of these students.

“I definitely felt like the upper administration needs to reevaluate the situation,” Bullock said. “This has become a really dangerous situation and we really need to make some changes before a real, true tragedy occurs.”

Bullock is just one of many staff members at Liberty Hill who have been assaulted by students. On March 31, two staff members were injured breaking up a fight. In December, former employee Vera Gordon filed a lawsuit alleging constant abuse from 2016 until the time she left in 2020.

Gordon’s lawsuit describes female employees “being punched in their face by students, headbutted, drugged [sic] by their hair, having trash cans slammed over their head, knocked unconscious, subjected to frequent racial and sexual slurs” which she says generally led to a state of heightened anxiety and fear while at work.

In March alone, the North Charleston Police Department were called to the school 14 times, and on Friday, the Charleston County School District confirmed another fight among students was broken up by a number of teachers. However, the district declined to report if any of them suffered injuries.

CCSD was not available for comment on this story.

Given the choice between the classroom and deployment, Bullock said he’d take deployment.

“Iraq a million times over,” Bullock said. “Because at least I know that my chain of command has my back.”

Next week, Bullock is meeting with his commanding officer to see if he is still mentally fit for military service.

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