Finding accurate violence against teachers statistics is practically impossible due to the varying ways in which violent incidents are recorded - when they are recorded at all. Where consistent statistics exist, these indicate an increase in physical attacks on teachers by students.
Just over a year ago, we published a blog entitled “Violence against Teachers is a Silent National Crisis”. The blog noted that only limited research had been conducted into violence against teachers, and that the results of what research existed contradicted official violence against teachers statistics. The discrepancy was attributable to varying definitions of what constitutes violence and the significant underreporting of violent incidents, by teachers.
Since our blog was published, new research has been carried out by the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Education Association (NEA), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). A survey sent to 3,403 teachers from across the United States found that 25% had been the victims of physical abuse or violence, 20% had experienced threats of physical violence, and 37% said they were subjected to verbal insults, disrespectful language, or inappropriate sexual advances.
A Massive Difference from Official Violence against Teachers Statistics
The results of the survey show a massive difference from official violence against teachers statistics published annually by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). For the most recent year available (2015-2016), only 5.8% of teachers reported a physical assault, while just 9.8% of teachers said they were threatened. NCES does not record violence against teachers statistics relating to verbal insults, disrespectful language, and inappropriate sexual advances.
This would imply the scale of underreporting is huge and much larger than the 20% reported in the APA/NEA/AFT survey. However, whereas the APA/NEA/AFT survey asked teachers about all types of violent experiences (by student, by parent, or by colleague), NCES only records violence against teachers statistics where the perpetrator is a student. Furthermore, there is a secondary cause of underreporting violence at schools - the schools themselves.
Why Schools Underreport Violence against Teachers Statistics
A like-for-like comparison between the APA/NEA/AFT survey and NCES statistics leads to a conclusion that three-quarters of physical assaults and half of threats against teachers are instigated by parents and colleagues. However, we already know that up to 89% of all crimes occurring on school campuses are not reported to law enforcement by school administrators, and it would appear schools are withholding information about the level of violence against teachers as well.
The reasons for schools underreporting violence against teachers statistics are closely aligned with why they don't report crimes on school campuses. These statistics contribute to schools' public profiles, and - with a comparatively bad profile - schools could lose enrollments and funding if they are considered dangerous or if parents feel teachers cannot maintain control. If one school in a district underreports violence, every other school in that district is likely to underreport violence.
Physical Attacks on Teachers by Students is Increasing
Assuming the underreporting of violence on teachers statistics is consistent, the number of physical attacks on teachers by students is increasing. This is according to the National Center for Education Statistics, who have published the graph below relating to the percentage of public school teachers who reported they were threatened with injury (the upper line) or physically attacked (the lower line) by a student during the previous 12 months.
Schools can best protect teachers against violence in two ways. The first way is to report incidents when they are brought to the school's attention so the scale of the problem can be identified and resources made available to tackle the problem. The second way is to issue teachers with mobile panic button apps so they can seek help whenever they are in any dangerous or threatening situation - not just behind a classroom desk (which is why wall-mounted and desk-mounted panic buttons are ineffective).
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