Nearly 6% of Teachers in The U.S. Have Been Assaulted By a Student

Teacher Assault is on the Rise; Know your Rights

Nearly six percent of teachers in the United States have been assaulted by a student, according to a 2018 study. Many more are threatened with assault or witness signs of aggression and anger from their students. Why don’t we hear more about teacher assault, when it has become increasingly more commonplace?

The reality is, threats and physical misconduct are often a part of every teacher’s story at one point or another. These factors that often lead up to, or accompany teacher assault, are often swept under the rug or simply not acknowledged. This is likely the reason we’ve seen a steady increase of teacher assault in recent years. No one is punishing the students for their first, second, third offense–or for their seemingly “empty” threats. Then, one day, the threats become something more, but then it’s too late. The assault has already been committed—when oftentimes there was a chance for it to be prevented.

No matter your experience with this trauma, it’s important to know your rights, teacher friend–even if you’re in a situation where those above you won’t fight for you. 

Not all rights are created equal, though—they vary greatly by state. Rights were only set in place, of course, after numerous violent attacks against educators were reported. For instance, a 17-year-old Nebraska student shot his principal and assistant principal, killing one and injuring the other. Likewise, a group of middle school students in Nebraska was arrested for creating “Attack a Teacher Day” through a social media campaign, where students signed a petition to join the mass assault. Most educational leaders can be found in an uproar in the aftermath of such instances, but often become lukewarm in their protection policies, until the next shocking assault. 

Some states, however, including Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Michigan, waste no time including the justice system through their state laws. If any student threatens a teacher, there will be a civil action instituted against them, likely resulting in a restraining order. A threat includes “anything that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury.”

Other states’ laws highlight expulsion as the only means of combating teacher assault. In any instance, teachers have the right to sue a students’ legal guardians if the teacher doesn’t feel that the Board of Education has handled their case properly. Most teachers have access to a teacher union that, when in this circumstance, will advocate for the teacher following the assault. It is important for teachers to understand how their local association operates in case they are faced with a similar grievance. 

At a national level, the National Education Association has its own Safe Schools program, which includes tips on how to deal with violence in schools. Here, teachers can find general guidelines on justice and legislative practices concerning human rights.

Overall, this type of situation becomes both a school and legal issue. Depending on the severity and the specific state laws in place, school officials should treat each individual circumstance with the utmost seriousness. If that’s not the case—the teacher has every right to include law enforcement in order to administer justice. Whether that looks like filing a restraining order or simply consulting the legal system on how to proceed in a situation where you feel that your safety is compromised, don’t be afraid to do what you have to do, teacher friend—regardless of whether you feel supported or completely alone. Go with your gut feeling. If you feel that you have been wronged, you most likely have, and it’s okay to take the steps necessary to make YOU feel safe.

READ: How Teachers Can Help Students Cope With Trauma After a Disaster or Tragic Event

Teacher Assault is on the Rise; Know your Rights

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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