Forty percent of administrators and one-third of teachers reported being threatened with violence by parents this school year according to a recently released national survey report from the American Psychological Association.
The aggression mostly came from parents who didn’t want their children to wear masks, opposed online or hybrid learning, or blamed the schools for learning loss. One responder from the survey stated, “This is a new problem. It used to be the kids, now it’s the adults.”
More administrators reported violent threats than other staff, while middle school teachers received more threats than teachers at other grade levels according to the Violence Against Educators and School Personnel: Crisis During COVID report. The number of employees who reported physical violence at school ranged from 14 percent to 22 percent with school social workers most likely to report they’d been attacked and teachers the least likely.
Physical and verbal violence directed towards educators are another reason many are leaving the profession or want to transfer to another school. The survey found 43 percent of teachers want to quit and 22 percent want to transfer. Administrators had a 27 percent desire to quit and 13 percent desire to transfer. These rates were higher in the northeast and south regions. LGBTQ employees had even higher rates of wanting to quit or transfer at 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
One teacher wrote, “The grocery store has better security than our public schools.”
Educators stressed the need for increased security and strategies to deal with volatile parents as well as students. Physical aggression from students continues to be a problem as it typically takes about eight months for a violently disruptive student to get additional help or placed in an appropriate program.
So, what can a district do to support and protect school staff? Some actions include:
- Review and train staff on safety protocols.
- Increase safety strategies and ensure safeguards are implemented (e.g., lock exterior doors, ensure each room has a panic button, and encourage staff to “buddy up”).
- Increase police and security guard presence.
- Provide de-escalation and conflict resolution training for staff.
- Streamline the process of identifying students for special education or behavioral supports.
- Support educator and student mental health and well-being.
- Promote trauma-informed practices.
Violence against educators is an increasing problem, and comprehensive research-based solutions are needed. Ensuring staff are safe and equipping them with strategies to deal with violent threats can ease stress and allow them to focus on instruction and student learning.
Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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