Violence And Aggression Against Teachers Grew Since Pandemic

Violence and aggression against teachers has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Research published by the American Psychological Association found that whilst threats and violence decreased during the pandemic, they have now returned to pre-pandemic levels or increased.

“There are substantial rates of violence against educators and school personnel, including teachers, school psychologists, social workers, counselors, administrators, and staff. The rates decreased during COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and bounced back to Pre-COVID-19 levels or higher following pandemic restrictions,” Susan Dvorak McMahon, PhD, lead author of the study and chair of the APA Task Force on Violence Against Educators and School Personnel, told Theravive.

“Teachers demonstrated the highest rates of violence after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and the biggest increases from Pre-COVID-19 to Post-COVID-19. Although a large percentage of educators reported experiencing verbal and threatening and physical violence, most participants experienced violence between 0 and 1 time over the academic year.”

The research involved two surveys. One involved 15 000 educators and school personnel and was conducted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and one was conducted in 2022 once many schools had lifted their COVID-19 restrictions.

In the 2022 survey, roughly 12 000 educators and school personnel were polled across all 50 states.

Those polled were asked about their experiences with verbal harassment, physical violence, threats and cyberbullying from students, colleagues, administrators and parents/guardians. 

The respondents were also asked if they planned to transfer to a different position within the school system, retire early or quit. 

The researchers found 65% of teachers reported they had experience at least one incident involving threatening behavior or verbal harassment from a student prior to the pandemic. 53% reported an incident of the same nature from a guardian or parent. 

During the height of pandemic restrictions when remote or hybrid schooling was in place, that decreased to 33% for such incidents from students and 29% from parents. 

After COVID-19 restrictions lifted, incidents of threatening behavior or verbal harassment impacted 80% of teachers polled. 63% of teachers reported similar treatment from parents or guardians. 

The pattern was similar with incidents of physical violence. Prior to the pandemic, 42% of those polled reported physical violence from students. During restrictions this dropped to 14% and following restrictions increased to 56% 

Just 1% reported physical violence from parents prior to the pandemic. This dropped to less than 1% during restrictions, but increased to 26% post pandemic. 

The researchers found the percentage of teachers who expressed an intention to either transfer or resign rose from 49% during COVID-19 restrictions to 57% after restrictions.

“The most significant increases in verbal and threatening aggression and physical violence are for teachers specifically.  The pandemic led to a lot of concerns and additional job-related anxiety and stress for teachers and other school personnel.  Unfortunately, these rates remained high and contributed to increases in intentions to transfer and quit.  Teacher shortages have made it more difficult for those teachers who have remained in their jobs. Staff shortages can lead to larger class sizes and fewer personnel to support students with behavioral difficulties,” McMahon told Theravive.

“Violence and aggression against educators and school personnel is a serious issue. It is contributing to difficult and unsafe work environments for many as well as teacher and staff shortages.  Further, it is not just student violence against teachers, but parent, administrator, and colleagues also engage in violence and aggression against adult school stakeholders.”

She argues that both policy makers and those who make decisions in schools could do more to address the violence and aggression seen in schools.

“Policy makers need to provide more resources for mental health of students and educators and for schools in high need districts. They also need to fund research that develops and examines effective interventions that prevents and addresses violence against all school stakeholders. School decision makers need to focus on creating positive school environments for students, teachers, and other staff. They also need to approach issues holistically, use evidence-based practices and consistent discipline policies and practices, engage in more effective training, incorporate teacher voices, and garner meaningful connections with parents and community partners,” she said.

“Violence against educators and school personnel is an important issue. We need to value and respect our educators and work toward improving the school environment and reducing violence. Teachers and other school personnel indicate they need training in a variety of practices, including de-escalation strategies, social emotional learning, trauma informed practices, restorative justice practices, classroom management, threat assessment, and working with diverse groups.” 

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