Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Violence Against Teachers – An Overlooked Crisis?

February 19, 2013 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories

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By Tim Walker

According to a recent article published by the American Psychological Association (APA), 80 percent of teachers surveyed were victimized at school at least once in the current school year or prior year. Teacher victimization is a “national crisis,” says Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who served as chair of the APA task force on Classroom Violence Directed at Teachers.  And yet, the issue is generally ignored or at least underreported by the media and given inadequate attention by scholars – a deficiency that has widespread implications for school safety, the teaching profession and student learning.

The APA article was based on a survey – one of the few national studies – conducted in 2011 that solicited anonymous responses from almost 3,000 K-12 teachers in 48 states (NEA assisted APA by distributing the survey to its members).

NEA Today recently spoke with Dr. Espelage about the tasks force’s findings and recommendations and how addressing teacher victimization must be a component of any comprehensive school safety plan.

What kinds of attacks are teachers facing?

About half of the teachers who reported being victimized experienced harassment. Others reported property offenses, including theft and damage to property. And about one-quarter of these teachers experienced physical attacks. Harassment includes anything from obscene gestures, verbal threats and intimidation and obscene remarks. With physical offenses, teachers widely reported objects being thrown at them and being physically attacked. The most severe and uncommon cases are physical attacks that result in a visit to the doctor.

In your work with the task force, what did you find out that might surprise people?

A big surprise was the general scarcity of research out there about the victimization of teachers in the workplace. When the APA asked me as head the task force to conduct a survey, I assumed a lot of research was out there, but itwasn’t. It’s 2013 and there have been only 14 studies conducted internationally. It’s a very underreported problem.

So if you have an area that isn’t being studied thoroughly, it will never come to the attention of the public. And that won’t translate into better pre-service training, professional development for teachers, more support from administrators and other measures that can be taken to address the issue.

Any comprehensive examination of school violence must include violence directed at teachers. Focusing solely on student victimization to the exclusion of teacher victimization results in an inadequate representation of safety issues, which makes it more difficult to formulate effective solutions.

What people also should know is that we’re not just talking about students attacking or harassing teachers. Students are not always the perpetuators. We heard about incidents of adult-on-adult incidents – including parents and colleagues.  What we found is that a physical attack was more likely to come from a parent as opposed to a student.

You also found that a teacher who is victimized by a member of one  group, say a student, is more likely to be victimized by another group.

Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois

Yes, but it’s hard to determine why that is. It could be a number of factors. A student who harasses or threatens might come from a family who is inclined to victimize the teacher in some way as well. It could be something about the teacher. Maybe he or she is not adequately supported by the administration and puts them at risk for other episodes.

What are the costs to the school or community?

The big issue is teacher attrition. It’s hard to know exactly but we suspect that it is one component of many that explains why teachers are leaving the profession. Other costs include lost wages, lost instructional time, potenial negative publicity for the school, and a negative impact on student learning. Teacher cannot perform their job effectively if they feel threatened.

The task force makes a number of recommendations, including the creation of  a national registry that can be used to track these incidents. You also urge that teacher preparation programs be  strengthened so that teachers enter the classroom better prepared to confront and defuse potential violence. How much of an impact can this make when so many other outside factors contribute to the problem?

Many pre-service teachers aren’t necessarily equipped with the skills to manage their classrooms. So it starts with pre-service education.  This is a priority in special ed, where teachers are really taught how to deescalate conflict. So one of the top recommendations we make in the report is urging teacher preparation programs to provide the next generation of teachers with a better skill-set that can at least help manage conflicts before they escalate.

Clearly teachers aren’t victimized just because they haven’t received adequate pre-service training or professional development.I also take a sociological perspective to studying the issue. What are the demographics of the school? What’s the administration like?  What resources are available at the school?  What neighborhood is the school situated in? And obviously we have to look at parental involvement.

And what’s the school climate like? We know about the connection between positive school climate and lack of aggressive or violent behavior. The research is very clear on that connection. Really strong leadership by the administration is needed to create a positive learning climate. How well does the administration connect with the teachers, how well do they know the student? The entire ecology of the school and the community has to be taken into account.

As for additional resources and teacher support, the trend in many states isn’t headed in the right direction. Class sizes are betting bigger – that certainly doesn’t help – and teachers are receiving less support, not more. So major shifts have to occur in our priorities for education funding. This is why we need to study this issue more, raise greater awareness, and help move the conversation forward.

Read the APA article, “Understanding and Preventing Violence Directed Against Teachers.”

See also:

When Educators Are Assaulted-What NEA Affiliates Are Doing to Protect Members from Violent and Disruptive Students

Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools

Comments

37 Responses to “Violence Against Teachers – An Overlooked Crisis?”
  1. Anna Johnson says:

    Has there been conversation and research about bully type behaviors, starting at the board and superintendent and working the way down?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 2

  2. Lisa says:

    I quit teaching because of the bullying of many of the parents. They seem to think they can treat a teacher any way they want, but scrutinize every word, movement and behavior of the teacher according to their own set of rules. This is a large part of what is wrong with American schools. I spent hours and hours every week on petty complaints of parents that had nothing to do with the actual education of their child. These parents want their child coddled and smiling (but make sure you mold them into a Harvard candidate). Many also use the teacher as a scapegoat for their family problems. The child is having trouble at home, it has to be the teachers fault.
    I will always say however, there are some fantastic parents out there and their children suffer because of the selfish, egotistical narcissistic bulling few.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 84 Thumb down 6

  3. Lisa says:

    I also want to add, my classroom was very diverse with usually over 50% non American students. These foreign parents treated me with respect and supported me in their child’s education. I saw these student far exceed the success of American students by a large margin. A child will learn little of academics if they are being taught by their parents to disrespect their teachers and that if they don’t do well in school, we will blame it on others. Personal responsibility needs to come back to the American classroom. There will be no success without it. Until that is realized we are just beating our heads against the wall.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 73 Thumb down 3

  4. Brian says:

    People always want to blame the schools or the government for the problems in education. The real problem is bad parenting. Schools provide instruction, but they aren’t responsible for raising your kids. If a kid is doing poorly in school, it is almost always the fault of the parent, who should be the primary teacher of their kids. Schools can provide the lessons, grade the homework, and act as a guide, but parents are the real teachers. People have stopped valuing education because it gets handed to them for free. The saying “Everyone is entitled to a good education” is wrong. It should go “Everyone is responsible to get a good education.” Society has a responsibility to provide the opportunity, but people have a responsibility to get an education for themselves, and parents are responsible to ensure it happens, not the schools.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 85 Thumb down 4

  5. Alison Bodily says:

    I teach 1st grade and in September was hit by a student. I ended up in the ER at my local hospital to be checked for blood clots because the blow broke several blood vessels in the area he connected with which was on the side of my leg, near the knee.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  6. P.A. Melvin says:

    The bullying has to stop at the administrator to teacher level, then it can improve at the other levels.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 56 Thumb down 1

  7. Amy says:

    I am trying to get a job after 13 years of teaching. I had a group of kids that got out of control and harassed me daily. It was always my fault. I should have refused when I was moved up to the next grade with them. Even though I saw them for only 1 or 2 hours a day the second year since we rotated between teachers, it was awful. By the end of that year I was gone and the other teacher who had taught that group with me was moved out of the regular classroom. Parents were no help, and my adminstrator was brand new and either incompetent out scheming to get rid of me.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  8. SH says:

    The bigger question is why do we accept it. If you are harassed, PRESS CHARGES. Do not let someone talk you out of it cause it was “no big deal” I do not let parents speak to me in a negative way. If they start down that path I ask them to stop, and if they don’t, the meeting, phone call, e-mail is over. Until we stand up for ourselves, the harassment will continue. Do not be timid, take care of your rights as a human and stop expecting someone else to do it for you. YOU do not have to take it, YOU need to stop it.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 4

  9. Thank you for this article and all you dedicated educators. Please consider applying restorative justice to school discipline. Restorative practices are non-adversarial, and concerned with repairing harm caused by wrongdoing, instead of mainly blaming and punishing. (The punitive model does not work – if it did we’d have safer schools). Here are some papers if you’re interested in restorative justice for schools (of course it won’t work in all cases, but research shows restorative interventions are more effective than what we do now). Here is a paper about my personal experience in a restorative conference when my son was assaulted at school about 13 yrs ago http://www.lorennwalker.com/articles/student_article.html (son is 26 now and never had more problems with the boy who hit him), and here’s another paper I just found: http://harvardcrcl.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/547-570.pdf Thank you again.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  10. Ann Durand says:

    SH says: “The bigger question is why do we accept it?”
    You are right SH, why?
    Most of the teachers remain SILENT, I did NOT! I stood up for my rights, for the students’ rights and the teachers’ rights!
    I was not timid. I got fired!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 1

  11. Brita Rambo says:

    A few days ago a student threatened to beat me up . The student also threatened to bring her father’s gun to school and shoot me. The administration’s response: to place me on notice due to my classroom management abilities.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  12. Irene says:

    I am just surprised why there was only few research conducted about teacher being victimized in the school. I just felt so low upon reading this article because , it seems like our profession in this country is not a as appreciated and as respected as other countries. This is a place where teaching is treated like a job itself and that you have to work for every penny you receive. But in reality, we have been working more than what is paid to us. Teachers are being victimized not only by students or parents but also by administrators at different levels. And when it comes to the results of the test scores, teachers also get most of the blame.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  13. Chris says:

    I was attacked by a female student, when I protected myself I was told it was unnecessary force and was asked to leave. Alot of parents today see their child as the perfect angle and that we as educators are doing wrong. Most of the administration I have worked with have had no back bone to stand up for their teachers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  14. Becki says:

    This is also an important issue for our education support staff. These students impact our entire school community and are as likely to bully/atteck classroom assisstants, bus aides, custodians, and food service workers. The article and the resources need to address teachers AND support staff.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  15. Rose says:

    Two female students were yelling at each other in the locker room. I went into the locker room and one girl continued to curse at me and threaten to beat the other girl, so i asked to her to accompany me to the office. She walked through the door first, stopped and then slammed the door on me. It hurt my head, neck and shoulder. A maintenance man saw and hear the incident and reported it in writing to the office. I said it was an assault. The school did not. I was injured and the school did not give me workman’s compensation days off. I had to use my sick days. I have taught and coached at this school for over 20 years. They treated me like …
    I had to press charges on the girl myself. In court, which took three different court dates, my witness testified, I had a video, the girl confessed and admitted that she slammed the door on me. A vice principal came to court, but he was not there for my benefit. He was there to represent the student. He said she was a good student. She had 13 referrals from September until November. She was issued in school and out of school suspensions. She was failing 4 out of 6 classes. She assaulted another (non tenured) male teacher in january and assaulted a social
    worker and was finally expelled in April.
    I still have not received my sick days back. I still have neck and shoulder problem but am still working.
    Schools don’t support or take care of staff. Parents don’t have any control of their children.
    To make matters worst, the student

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  16. Steve says:

    As a former Local Union Leader and Past President I have seen my share of Administrators that bully teachers. It happens every day and someone needs to step up and bring this subject out in the open. We have laws against age discrimination and gender discrimination, yet it still goes on. Physical violence happens as a result of administrative attitudes toward teachers. Only when teachers are willing to stand up for their rights will anything happen.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  17. Mike says:

    A colleague of mine with some twenty plus years of service to his community as a Teacher was suddenly berated by a student with a series of obscenities and vulgar statements. All in a unprovoked fashion for no reason other than to belittle this quiet and gentle man “in front of his students”. He was a wonderful teacher who had accomplished much in the classroom. After three days of “In school suspension” the student was right back in the classroom with no other penalty!

    Short of “true criminal” behavior there is no discipline maintained in the public school system at this point! None! Within a year that same teacher suffered a heart attack and had to retire. He was fortunate. It could have been far worse.

    As a nation, at all levels, we no longer recognize the contribution made by teachers!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  18. I would like to see this issue propelled to TOP PRIORITY above all others. It makes no difference to fight for a few more dollars per pay period or a reasonable evaluation system while this kind of treatment is ignored. It is common place to blame the teacher’s classroom management skills rather than address the behavior of the perpetrators, thus making the evaluation system inept.

    Teachers new to the profession promptly and wisely leave. The long term effects of bullying from all levels on those of us who stay in the profession affect the students, our families and our communities.

    It has not always been this way. We can not fight this alone. I put the ball in the courts of the associations who represent us.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  19. Nancy says:

    Bullying at the adminstrative level resulted in me being assigned to a commercial kitchen (classroom) in a special education center program. Admistration was negligent in providing the proper training for me to teach vocational food preparation skills to special education students who ranged from mild to low moderatley mentally impaired. I was never formally trained to operate and maintain dangerous commercial fryers in addition to other commercial food preparation equipment. As a result students and I were required to lift heavy containers of hot water and oil from the floor when the fyers were cleaned and the oil filtered. We were never provided with fryer filter machines which would have saved staff and students from strenuous lifting. Although there were a number of male teachers in the program, adminstration felt in appropriate to assign middle aged female teachers and teacher aides to engange in this dangerous and heavy laborous actiity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Joel says:

    I think the biggest issue with this topic is how strong is your administration? I currently have a a administrative staff that will not tolerate any threats from students and has the teachers back. This in turn leads to less problems all around. I have had the opposite too and you almost get the feeling they think you deserve the threats, and look completely past zero tolerance. 99% of us teach to make a difference and a strong administration leads to a strong teaching staff which leads to learning in the classroom.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. da va says:

    I’ve been a teacher for 36 years in same school district.
    If you are going to be a teacher, you have to be ready
    to handle the abuse and the repercussions that result from
    your handling the instances. Watch out for yourself, no one
    else will.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  22. Hollie Wood says:

    I agree with most of the comments. I must say I am jealous of Joel who states he has a strong administration that has his back because in none of the administrations that I worked with have I seen that teachers matter. Not one! So hurray for you, Joel.
    Earlier in the school year I had three students steal X-acto knives from me and were not punished in any manner. The knives were found in their backpacks and returned to me. I was told they are not a weapon. Tell that to the people that died on Flight 93. Those students were back in class the next day smirking at me.
    So many teachers are accused of not having classroom management skills when they should be given support for unruly students. A student calling me a “bear on crack” resulted in a chuckle from administration. The stories could go on forever. Until we get parental support and respect, we will never get students to behave in the classroom. My administrators are scared of parents. They hide in their offices until the parents leave. Sad.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Rebekah says:

    For me, the challenge around this issue is that I work with elementary kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD). So it is a known factor when I step into the classroom that my students are likely to threaten and attempt to harm me when I do something, like enforce limits, that they do not like. And yet these kids need a free and appropriate education as well. Luckily, I have an administrator who is actively engaged with my students, helps me problem solve, firm with parents, and does her best (including participating in the physical interventions) to keep us all safe. At the same time, the job is so stressful that I come home exhausted everyday with very little energy left for my family, so I will be looking at a transfer for my own mental health and well being. I only hope someone else will have the courage and compassion it takes to teach my students next year…

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  24. Debra says:

    Teachers are expected to work with administrators on site to “maintain good order and discipline.” But when a male administrator asks a female teacher if “she has plans to sleep with him – to get ahead” – the response should be, first – to document everything – then SUE – for sexual harassment.

    Sexual harassment is as if you were being raped every day. You must consider this a FEDERAL offense. Female teachers are protected unter Title VII, perhaps also IX.

    You can also sue for ANY physical assault if you are touched, grabbed, or “hugged” against your will – while you are working. Some administrators can’t keep their hands to themselves – they are disgusting.

    In going through this process, (I have a Right to Sue letter) I have also discovered that YOU – as a teacher – can file a “stalking injunction” against ANYONE who threatens you at work. You can do this for free – but must usually provide at least two or more “incident documentations.” In order to do this you need to write memos – addressed to both the perp – and the principal. Send these as well to HR. If nothing is addressed, or you experience retaliation – leave immediately upon filing court documents.

    HR will be furious with you. Take the break you deserve – then start looking immediately for another position, or any job. FOLLOW THROUGH.

    This is the only way WE WILL SILENCE THE VIOLENCE IN THIS COUNTRY THAT IS DIRECTED TOWARD TEACHERS – AND OTHERS. STAND UP TO IT – and FIGHT BACK – IT IS WRONG. No PhD is required to do this.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. MaryRose Jeffry says:

    I agree with Rebekah that the challenge in teaching child with disabilities increasing the risk of being a victim of violence. I have over 20 years experience in the classroom and feel most children belong in a classroom setting. However, an administrator knowingly put a violent child in my classroom without the properly support systems in place. Also, no one was notified how difficult this child was. On the first day of school this second grader dislocated and aide’s shoulder and body slammed me into the floor during a floor activity. The district’s response was to threaten to fire the aide if she made waves and told me to do a better job of protecting myself. The violence continued and so did the lack of support. I left my job and later realized that this student had severely injured my neck thereby costing me my career. This was over 4 years ago and the district still chooses to ignore violent children.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Rachel says:

    I also teach students with Emotional and Behavior Disorders and had a student break off my front tooth during an aggressive attack. It wasn’t his fault. I don’t have a problem with my choice to work with tough kids & their parents, but I do have a problem with demo nixing children who are crying out behaviorally because its the only voice they have that is effective. Give them what they need and they are completely different. Continue cutting resources & we will just keep creating violent children & burned-out teachers. I love my job, but it’s killing me. I work 60 hour weeks & have little patience left for my own children. I am looking for a new job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. My name is Myra Richardson. In August of 2012, Save Our Schools requested the film, DYING TO TEACH: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson, “Educators Who Bully” for their convention in Washington, DC. It is based upon the death of an Illinois teacher who sacrificed her life on Thanksgiving Day, 2011, to expose the bullying of teachers by other educators/administrators within her school, the children used to acquire funds illegally due to grade manipulation, and the poor condition of the institution. An article was written about Mary Thorson in the Chicago Tribune on January 1st, 2012. The outcry from teachers throughout the country in response to the piece was massive – I was one of those teachers. I have received countless emails from bullied teachers requesting a copy of the film. I was recently contacted by a teacher from Nevada whose colleague died suddenly due to bullying at the hands of an administrator. She wanted Mary’s film for the other teachers. I decided to place the documentary on Vimeo to make it more accessible. Of course, there is no charge involved. Please pass on the link. Thank you.

    http://vimeo.com/62563318

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. Kim Werner says:

    Myra-

    I watched the “Dying to Teach” video. Thank you for making it accessible for all of us. I will post it on my “A Piece Full World” website and Facebook page. It is a powerful film. It is a story so many have lived and are living.

    I speak often of my former principal’s “flower strewn path to a superintendency.” Look closely though. The path’s edges are littered with the “carcasses of teachers’ careers……”

    I would love to work with you.

    Kim Werner
    http://www.apiecefullworld.com
    kimwerner@apiecefullworld.com

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Pamela Franciscovich says:

    I have been abused by both administrators who want to “keep the peace” or because they are “friends” with parents. I have also been bullied by parents, administrators, and students.
    I have been teaching for 30+ years, and if I could find a way out of this crucible, I would leave it in a NYY minute!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Cynthia L. Thompson says:

    I was a teacher in Chicago Public Schools. In March 2013, I was physically attacked by Patricia Baggett-Hopkins (interim principal), Nikkol Palmer and another friend of hers at Horace Mann Elementary School on 8050 S. Chappel. They punched me in the face, pulled my arms and laughed. She had been hitting me, pushing on me calling me out my name and talking about how big my buttox was for two years. It was all captured on the school video and the video was taken by the area officer and he would not release the video to the Chicago Teachers Union. I suffer with PTSD and had to have arm and shoulder surgery as a result. She had the staff lie and state that the assault did not happen. I was placed on medical leave in lieu of assault leave. I could not secure an attorney to assist me in Chicago. She stated that the board would protect her and that I would be fired.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Kay says:

    Teachers are getting assaulted weekly in our building. Administration was told to only “handle” the severe violent or drug offenses. Discipline incidences go against our DESE rating, so if they are not documented, then they didn’t happen. Teachers are discouraged from filing charges. Kids say they will start fights so when teachers break them up, the teachers willget jumped. Newspaper calls us whiny complainers who fear change. Mayor and School Committee agree with newspaper. Grievances are going to arbitration which take 6 months to a year. Who will help us?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Nan says:

    I am all for stopping violence in our schools; however, there needs to be studies done–serious studies–that investigate the events leading up to the violence. How often I have witnessed harassing and bullying behavior on the part of the staff and administration. Then when a student stands up for himself, he is punished and no thought is given to the instigating behavior of the faculty. Teachers want to cry out against violence toward themselves but when will they ever be accountable and accept responsibility for their own behavior? Teachers are allowed to “hide” behind anti-violence laws which protect them against students while allowing their own behavior to go unchecked. When will someone conduct a truthful, unbiased study of school violence?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. m mcmahon says:

    best wishes to all new teachers, you are invited to a world of students working through family problems, belittlement by administratrors and abuse by parents all in the name of what is “best” for the chld. committed 30 years to education, many more plusses than minuses, the most rewading was working with students who you know had a positive impact on thier lives, happy to be done but most empathetic to teachers coming in to schools run as a business (cost per act ratio) unfortunately will take another 10 to 15 years before parents and administrators realize children and their education are not a “commodity” what will be the name for the generation of the 2010+ students (the most cost efficient children) at some time everyone pays

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. I’ve made a DVD – One Punch Homicide – that should reduce violence against teachers and others It’s just recently been released and for years I’ve been saying it would reduce violence, crime, murders, and bullying, perhaps more than anything in our time. In 1998 the American Psychiatric Association said by the time Americans reached the age of 18 they had seen, om average, 200,000 acts of violence on screen. This younger generation has seen more violence than previous younger generations, and it often shows. I think we’re cheating today’s young by allowing them to watch so much violence without teaching them one punch can kill before they start legally drinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Wow, that’s what I wwas searching for, whjat a
    stuff! existing here at this blog, thanks admin of this web page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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