Nearly one-fifth of teachers who experienced physical or verbal violence on the job didn’t report the incident to administrators, according to a recent study
Some educators aren’t raising their hands to report violence they face in the classroom.
Nearly one-fifth of teachers who experienced physical or verbal violence on the job didn’t report the incident to administrators, according to a recent national study on the so-called “silent national crisis” of violence against teachers. About 13% of teachers didn’t communicate about their incident to other teachers, and 24% didn’t tell their families.
“The part that was most surprising to me … was the number of teachers who don’t reach out for help,” lead study author Eric Anderman, a professor at Ohio State University, told Moneyish. “You would think that everybody would tell their school administrators about it, but we found that wasn’t the case.”
A particularly disturbing finding, he added, was that just 12% of teachers talked to a counselor or mental health professional.
The research, published in the journal Social Psychology of Education, surveyed a sample of more than 3,400 K-12 teachers. It asked respondents to think back to times they were targeted by intimidation or verbal or physical aggression in their schools, then write a description of their most upsetting incident. More than 2,500 respondents said they had endured violence or abuse as teachers.
About 20% of respondents reported threats of physical violence; 26% reported actual assault or physical abuse; and 37% reported verbal insults, disrespectful language or inappropriate sexual advances. (Most perpetrators were students, Anderman said, but some were parents and fellow employees.) Eight percent didn’t describe their actual incident, but reported a lack of support from school personnel after the event.
That latter group struck a personal chord with Anderman: As a high school teacher in Florida decades ago, he said, he reported a student’s verbal threat of future physical violence. While one administrator was supportive, a higher-up administrator decided to cut the student a break, he said. “It really left a bad feeling for me,” Anderman said.
The study also examined teachers’ tendency to blame themselves for the incidents: When they attributed the cause to their own personality or other factors within their control, the research found, they were more likely to feel upset (defined as crying and/or scared) and angry, and exhibit physiological reactions. Those who felt angry or had a physiological response were more likely to report the incident to administrators, colleagues and family members; those who had physiological or upset reactions, meanwhile, were more likely to seek counseling.
About 9% of teachers say they’ve been threatened with injury by a student in their workplace, and 5% say they’ve been physically attacked by a student, per the U.S. Department of Education. Violence in the classroom can have a “devastating” effect on teachers, Anderman said: It may prompt them to leave the profession, diminish their ability to do their job and disrupt their personal and/or family life. “Anyone who faces any kind of violence, whether it’s physical violence or relational violence, it can really have a huge impact on your life,” he said.
Anderman encouraged teachers who’ve been victims of violence to reach out for support — but also urged administrators to make clear to teachers that there’s help available. Bottom line: “Don’t forget about the teachers.”
“I think we do a phenomenal job, when there’s a crisis, of providing support for the students — and that’s extremely important,” he said. “But I think the leaders need to remind themselves that the teachers are in this, too.”
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