The Akron Public Schools cannot afford the wrong impression about the high quality of education it provides. Neither does it make sense to risk the image of failing to face squarely its challenges. Thus it is crucial for district leaders and its teachers to find ways to bridge constructively their differences over the handling of student discipline matters.

Ultimately, this goes to learning. If the number of students posing greater disciplinary problems is small, they can have the effect of disrupting and setting back an entire classroom.

Then, there is Akron the city seeking to attract and keep additional residents. The schools should be a draw. That contribution suffers when the wrong perception carries the day.

It is encouraging that David James, the district superintendent, already has been pursuing a review of how limited resources are deployed in disciplinary cases, such as the shape and operation of alternative schools. The Akron school board has set in motion the formation of a committee, headed by Tim Miller, a board member, to examine the management of discipline cases. Miller rightly has talked about a community effort.

What Miller and colleagues, along with James and his administrative team, would be wise to do is listen carefully to teachers. Teachers did not show up easily in protest outside the administration building nearly two weeks ago. That was an extraordinary step, and hardly by an Akron Education Association with a record of overplaying its hand.

In that way, it didn’t help matters when an attorney for the district dismissed as “embarrassing” a teacher seeking the reassignment of a disruptive 14-year-old student, who, with the teacher’s clothing in mind, said, “Gray pants, green shirt, pop, pop, pop.” Yes, the student pointed a banana, and not a real gun. The tone of the attorney highlighted the need for an improved dialogue.

As the teachers union reminds, its members went on strike three decades ago due to concerns about assaults in the classroom. That resulted in a shared process for handling such incidents, including regular meetings of an expulsion review committee. The union went years without filing a grievance. So something worked.

That is, until recent years. Hard to miss the coincidence. The district faced the need to address a high rate of student suspensions, in 2009 the highest in the state. It since has dropped to eighth. Yet, at the same time, teacher concerns about assaults have escalated.

The teachers union proposes returning to the contract, an assault as deemed at the building level leading to the reassignment of the student to another school. District officials argue that things are more complicated, starting with the need to assure that a student receives due process, administrators reviewing the building findings. They have a fair point.

There are many factors in play, as teachers and administrators understand. Students have disabilities and special needs. Race is a clear element, black students suspended at a pace exceeding their share of enrollment. Behavioral experts continuously work in this area, devising new approaches, requiring flexibility and modifications.

These and other factors in all their complexity reinforce the need for genuine conversation, teachers and administrators in steady communication. Whatever the district is doing now isn’t working effectively. That is evident in the many grievances and that teachers felt it necessary to hit the streets to be heard.