Report: Threats, violence taking toll on US educators

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Nearly half the educators in the United States want to quit their jobs over violence and threats from both students and parents, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association.

The topic of declines in students’ social and emotional wellbeing has been in the headlines throughout the pandemic, and now new quantitative data clearly demonstrates the toll taken on teachers. The APA Task Force on Violence Against Educators and School Personnel surveyed about 15,000 teachers, administrators, school psychologists, social workers, and paraprofessionals from all 50 states between 2020 and 2021. A third of school staff also reported at least one incident of verbal harassment or threatening behavior from a student or parent. And the experience is even more common amongst administrators.

Vermont-NEA president Don Tinney says the results ring very true here, too. “We must make sure that every school is a sanctuary for every student. And as we do that, we will make sure that the school is a safe workplace for all educators. We sometimes jokingly say, ‘I don’t want to go to work and get kicked in the shins every day.’ But we do have educators who are literally getting kicked in their shins by their students,” Tinney said. He stresses that Vermont must invest in highly-qualified personnel and mental health resources and only then will conditions in the classroom for both teachers and students improve.

The APA presented a list of action items to Congress Thursday, much of which focuses on funds for professional development and training. Experts say a shortage of paraeducators and behavioral interventionists means kids in crisis often don’t get the proper support, leading them to act out violently or aggressively. They say with more programs to train all educators to meet the mental and behavioral needs of students, the demand for specialized staff won’t be as dire.

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