Violence Against Teachers

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: In recent years, we have heard a lot about violence in schools, such as students bullying one another. Has anyone done any research on violence toward teachers by students?

A few years ago (2011) the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study on that very topic by the APA Task Force on Violence Against Teachers. It was titled, “Violence Against Teachers: A Silent National Crisis.” In bold letters, across the top of the poster that presented the research results, the Task Force warned, ALL EDUCATORS ARE AT RISK!

The findings were presented in a poster format and can be found at www.apa.org/ed/schools/cpse/activities/violence-against.aspx.

Consider the following findings:

• Each year, 253,100 (7%) teachers are threatened with injury.

• Each year, 127,500 (3%) teachers are physically attacked by students.

Location made a difference, but no area was exempt.

• Forty-three percent of the violence was in cities

• Thirty-one percent was in suburbs

• Eleven percent was in towns

• Fifteen percent was in rural areas

Female teachers were more often threatened than male teachers, 69% to 31% respectively.

The Task Force recommended that schools “implement classroom-based, school-wide violence prevention programs so that teachers and students learn effective strategies for solving problems peacefully.” Further, it was recommended that teachers (1) “use available resources for classroom management,” (2) “use effective classroom management practices,” and (3) “promote academic engagement.”

The Task Force provided a list of possible precursors to violence, how one might respond to warning signs, what to do if threatened in the classroom, and how to take care of oneself after an incident.

Possible precursors to violence ranged from a break-up with boy/girl friend to prejudice to strained relationship between teacher and student to academic stress. Noticeably absent from the Task Force’s possible precursors to violence toward teachers was any mention of lack of respect for authority by parents. In other words, a history of parents siding with the student against teachers apparently was not even considered.

Of the fifteen possible precursors to violence, not one mentioned personal responsibility on the part of the student or the parent. Each of the fifteen addressed some environmental factor, seeming to suggest that if the teacher could create just the right environment, the altercation could possibly be avoided. A note at the bottom of the list of precursors stated, “Currently there is little empirical research on possible precursors.” It’s too bad they overlooked the possibility of any personal or parental responsibility.

Let me park here for a moment and speak directly to parents. The only authority a teacher or school administrator has is the authority you give them. When you side with your child against a teacher or administrator, you just sided against your own authority. It’s only a matter of time before that little sweetheart you just defended tells you to take a hike. That is not to insinuate that teachers and administrators never make mistakes. Umpires make mistakes, but we live with their decisions, because if we didn’t the well-ordered game would turn to chaos.

If you believe your child was unfairly punished or corrected, go to the teacher and get the facts, but don’t tell your child you are going to take his or her part against the authority figure. If the authority figure erred, let the authority figure make the apology, don’t denigrate the authority figure. To do so will cost you in the long run.

To the teachers reading this article, I would suggest you go to the website noted above, read the results of the Task Force, and weigh in on the subject by contacting the Task Force providing some of your own ideas.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to realnews@deltadiscovery.com.