A voice,  a community and a seat at the table

As Carla Bobier describes it, there was a cultural shift that occurred sometime during her fourth year as a middle school educator within Omaha Public Schools. Her middle school students began to test one another and then—their teachers.

“I loved those first couple of years of teaching and then there was a pre-COVID shift,” she explained. “There began to be this power struggle between students and teachers. We started having a lot of behavioral issues in our building.”

For the teachers, this meant implementing an “all hands on deck” protocol during lunch time and at dismissal because there were so many student fights.  

“We were constantly breaking up fights in our building. Most of the time, we were able to break them up right away,” she said. “You learn to recognize the signs of a fight even before they start.”

The fight that turned out to be a trap

When Bobier passed by students gathered in a circle around what looked to be the latest clash, she rushed to intervene.

“I was the first teacher there. I got into the middle to break up the fight, but there was no fight. The students had staged it to look like a fight so they could trap a teacher in the middle,” she said.

Once surrounded, Bobier was pinballed back and forth between the mass of students who thought it was funny.

“When it was happening to me, I was mostly just mad because I was being pushed around and touched by students who had planned to do this to a teacher,” Bobier said. “As I made my way out of the circle I took one of the first students there and hauled him to the office because I wanted to find out what was going on and who was behind this.”

Bobier said she was not physically hurt by the group of students but as she waited in the office the adrenaline from the incident subsided and she began to recognize the seriousness of what had happened.

“It really didn't hit me at first of how potentially dangerous that could have been. If there had been even one student who might have thrown an elbow or—God forbid—a knife or something. I kind of had a bit of a breakdown in the office.”

Administrators apologized to Bobier and began looking into the incident. Several factors hindered the inquiry: a camera that should have captured the incident had been poorly maintained and the footage was deemed useless. The student Bobier had taken to the office turned out to be just a bystander who had been sucked into the circle of students. And many students remained tight-lipped or were not even questioned by administrators. Bobier still wanted the students who orchestrated the incident to be identified and face consequences. She felt the longer the district waited to act, the more likely something like this could happen to a colleague. A trusted friend told Bobier that she may need to reach out to her union representative for help getting a response from the district. At the time, Bobier was a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE).  

Write a letter and wait

As a member of AAE, Bobier didn’t have a local representative in her building, in her district or in Omaha. She called a phone number provided by AAE and explained what happened to a representative over the phone. Through a series of emails, Bobier put in writing what had happened and sought advice on her next steps.   

“There were emails back and forth and AAE’s solution was that I write a letter to the superintendent of OPS and that's as far as I got,” explained Bobier. “I wrote the letter and sent it to AAE to look over. The AAE person didn’t have any changes. She was just like, ‘Yep, that’s good.’”

Bobier dropped her letter in the mail just before spring break 2020. Shortly after sending the letter, OPS and schools statewide shut down due to the pandemic.

“I never got a response from the district. There was never a follow up by the AAE representative about how it went or if it was resolved,” said Bobier. “I didn't want to let the school or OPS get off that easy, but nothing came of it. I didn’t feel supported as an educator.”

Help is in the building

When Bobier took a new position as an 8th grade science teacher at Logan Fontenelle Middle School in Bellevue she immediately joined the Bellevue Education Association (BEA). In just a few short years she’s already taken on a leadership role as a middle-level executive board member of BEA.

“The reason I am so active is because of what happened. I want to know the inner workings of my local association. I want to help educators feel supported,” she said. “I think the most important thing is that your local association understands the buildings, they understand the people. They have a vested interest in making your working conditions better because they’re working alongside you. NSEA and BEA have firsthand knowledge of Nebraska public schools and all the districts. They have processes to get people the help and support they need.”

A voice, a community and a seat at the table

NSEA is a community of 26,000 dedicated professionals who share a passion for public education.
Association work is governed by members like Bobier who were elected by their peers to serve at the local, district, state and national levels.

NSEA is the only association in Nebraska that has the experience, expertise and strength to provide training and research for your local association negotiators. Support through collective bargaining better equips local associations in their pursuit of improved contracts and working conditions that benefit you and your students.

NSEA has 18 organizational specialists who work closely with local associations and members in every part of the state. As former teachers, they are experienced bargainers, they understand contract comparability, and can provide accurate information and expert advice. NSEA's organizational specialists are ready and able to help educators resolve minor disagreements with administrators or represent teachers in grievances and dismissal hearings. NSEA is also the only education association with legal counsel located right here in Nebraska.

For more than 155 years, NSEA has been the collective voice for Nebraska public educators. Whether pursuing change, speaking at school board meetings, seeking increased funding, or advocating for education with state elected officials, NSEA supports you and your students.