With increasing frequency, teachers are reporting being assaulted by students in their classrooms. From being kicked, bitten, and knocked down to having chairs and books thrown at them, teachers are dealing with a sharp rise in aggressive student behavior that impacts not only educators, but also students.
“Students are disrupting classrooms and putting themselves, other students, and teachers at risk at an alarming rate,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “Oftentimes, the disruptive students are taken out of the classroom for a short period of time and then returned right back into the same classroom, where the aggressive behavior continues.”
Teachers are speaking out at the Education Committee’s Public Hearing today, calling on legislators to pass Senate Bill 453 An Act Concerning Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior, to address this troubling trend and enact policies and procedures to appropriately handle student disciplinary issues. Across Connecticut a steady rise in student aggression, especially among younger children— combined with a lack of administrative support in addressing the problem—is pushing teachers to speak out.
“These behaviors and lack of support for teachers are adversely affecting the learning environment for students. The risk to the safety of other students and teachers in the classroom should be paramount, but in many cases, it is being ignored,” said Cohen.
In written testimony submitted to legislators today, teachers shared their personal stories of being assaulted and threatened by students and not supported by administrators. Here are some of the comments:
- I work in an early elementary school, and the staff and teachers are attacked both verbally and physically on a daily basis.
- A colleague and I were both assaulted by a student this year. The student in question pushed each of us. My colleague was in her second trimester of pregnancy at the time. I suffered from a herniated disc.
- I was physically attacked a few years back. A child kicked me so hard that I needed to have knee reconstruction surgery. I now limp and have intermittent pain.
- I was physically assaulted by a student last year and had to go on disability leave. I now have permanent back problems.
- A student physically attacked me and then attacked my colleague as we were trying to keep the student safe. Assaults on school personnel are a major problem that doesn’t get addressed. We are punching bags and disrespected on a regular basis. I was put on administrative leave.
- Several years ago, I received a sexually harassing email from a student, and the principal told me I should be lucky he didn’t sexually assault me. I received no support from administration and no action was taken.
- A good friend and colleague of mine had to give up her running hobby after a student kicked her so hard that her leg fractured and never fully recovered.
- I have been violently shoved around in my classroom. The administration and resource officer did nothing. They blamed me.
- I know of several students who have assaulted a teacher either with threats or with physical violence, and the interventions taken in all cases were not enough to ensure the safety of our staff and students.
- I had rotator cuff surgery and was punched by a fourth-grade student. The punch was forceful and purposeful, and nothing was done about it.
- My colleagues who have been assaulted have left the profession because they felt abused and not supported by the administration.
- I have been hit, kicked, scratched, and pushed.
- I have been assaulted. I have had my clothes ripped and ruined, large chunks of my hair ripped out causing my scalp to bleed, bitten to the point of scarring, and kicked so hard bruises lasted for weeks.
- Students are scared and stressed, and the teachers are fearful that if they file an assault report they will lose their job.
- There isn’t enough strong action to offer help to students who witness these attacks, which result in decreased learning in the classroom, witnessing the removal of a fellow student, and a guest teacher coming into their room because their teacher is receiving medical attention.
- In many schools teachers do not get the backing of their administrators and get reprimanded for strictly enforcing respectful behavior.
CEA is advocating for strong legislative measures in this bill that will help ensure daily classroom safety. Measures include
- requiring reporting of incidents of violations of daily classroom safety
- enhancing response and establishing appropriate procedures regarding violent behavior
- requiring administrators to follow up to address violent behavior on an ongoing basis
- allowing teachers to remove students from the classroom who have assaulted someone or are a threat to the safety of others
- ensuring violent students receive appropriate supports before returning to the classroom
“One of CEA’s proposals would allow a teacher to remove a student from the classroom who has assaulted someone in the classroom, repeatedly bullied other students, or is a threat to the safety of others, and place the student in an appropriate setting that does not threaten other students,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams. “It requires that the student receive appropriate supports before returning to the classroom.”
Williams stressed, “Ignoring these problems undermines safe schools, and robs students with behavioral issues of the opportunity to get assistance—before school issues become criminal justice issues.”
“Teachers should not have to be fearful of students in their own classrooms. When violent incidents happen, teachers must feel protected and supported by administration. We must put an end to the increase in student violence, address behavioral issues, and hold administrators accountable for taking action,” concluded Cohen.
The Connecticut Education Association is Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union, representing active and retired educators across the state.