Threats, Violent Acts Against Teachers Often Go Unreported

Threats, Violent Acts Against Teachers Often Go Unreported

Teachers who are victims of physical violence or threats at their schools often don't tell anyone about it, claims a study released in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting.

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"You would think that the first thing a teacher would do after a violent encounter or threat would be to tell the school's administrators, but 20 percent aren't even doing that," said study author Eric Anderman, a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University. "That's disturbing."

The findings came from a survey of more than 3,400 kindergarten to 12th grade teachers from across the United States -- including more than 2,500 who said they'd experienced violence or threats. The survey was done in collaboration with the American Psychological Association, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

In addition to teachers who didn't report violence or threats to school administrators, 14 percent did not tell their colleagues and 24 percent did not tell their family. Only 12 percent saw a counselor.

"Too many teachers aren't talking to anyone about what happened," Anderman said in a university news release.

One-quarter of the teachers in the study reported physical abuse or assault, 20 percent reported threats of physical violence, and 37 percent said they were subjected to verbal insults, disrespectful language or inappropriate sexual advances.

Another 8 percent didn't provide specific details about violent incidents but did note a lack of support from school officials and colleagues who were told about the events.

"That finding was very surprising to us, Anderman said. "It was not something any of us thought we would find."

Some teachers blamed themselves for a violent incident -- saying, for example, "They do this to me because I won't fight back," or "I should have been more careful." The more they blamed themselves, the more likely they were to feel angry and to talk to others about the incident, the study found.

"Experiencing negative emotions like anger can potentially be helpful, if it leads teachers to reach out to colleagues or family," Anderman said. "They often need help processing what they went through."

However, anger linked to self-blame was also associated with a lower likelihood that teachers would contact the parents of the offending students, according to the study.

The findings indicate that schools need to be more effective in dealing with violence against teachers, Anderman said.

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"Some schools may need to re-evaluate how they can support and help teachers who are victims of violence," he suggested.

The results were published online March 6 in the journal Social Psychology of Education.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more on violence against teachers.


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