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Violence against teachers: Actual stories

Secondary school teacher and blogger, Emily Aslin shares stories from fellow teachers who reached out to her with their experiences of violence suffered in and around the classroom. Emily writes…

The fact that any teacher has to go through this sort of abuse is ridiculous. We are educators, and we are not trained for or should expect to deal with violence.

Read the stories from only a handful of actual teachers below. There are literally millions more like these, some leagues worse and some not as bad, every one of them awful.

All of the stories shared here have had names and details removed to protect the identities of all involved. This article was originally posted on Emily’s blog Actual Teaching, and School News republishes it here with her permission. 

“Senior leadership didn’t back me up”

I wrote about my own incident of physical intimidation here. While no physical violence was used, I still felt like I had been slapped in the face.

Especially when the senior leadership didn’t back me up as well as I’d hoped and expected.

“Aggression was quite concerning”

Fortunately, personally, the worst I have dealt with is verbally abusive adolescent males. I have had one boy in particular whose aggression was quite concerning and who would stand in close proximity, which combined with his taller stature relative to me was quite daunting in combination with the verbal aggression.

I met a second-year maths teacher, last year. He and his wife had just made the tough decision to pay back his teaching scholarship that required him to take a mandatory teaching role at a DET-allocated school. The school he was assigned to was an all boys school in Western Sydney. He described the experience as involving very little teaching and predominantly classroom management. He described dealing with several violent outbreaks in his classroom. He had been threatened personally and had several lock-downs in his experience – none of which were drills. These events and the stress entailed prompted him and his wife to find out how to pay back the scholarship and move away from this particular school.

“Whilst pregnant, I had 2 incidents.”

One where I removed a student from my classroom for repeated misbehaviour and he called me a ‘slut’ on the way out.

Another where I was teaching a Yr 8 class and the boys were tipping metal cabinets and rough housing, wrestling, etc., knowing I couldn’t intervene (I was 33 weeks at the time).

Another student drew a graphic diagram of how one gets pregnant and stuck it to my whiteboard, crawled out the window and went to harass other classes etc. I then started my maternity leave early as the class left me shaken, and way too stressed.

I advise an after school club. This is my first year teaching as well. I had a student who was failing her classes so I was reaching out to the parent to tell them that their daughter was not eligible to compete in a regional competition for forestry that weekend. The parent was irate, told me I sucked at my job and that I should just quit. He said he was going to rally other parents and go to the principal to get me fired. It was all verbal harassment. I make it seem small but it was about a full page and a half of insults.

And they wonder why so many teachers are leaving the profession and so many don’t wish to enter it.

Administration pretty much sided with the parent. I’m constantly having to prove myself to parents and admin because I’m young but how else are teachers supposed to get their feet wet and experience.

“Leaned across the desk and got right up in my face”

I had a parent repeatedly tell me he was a boxer and he would sort me out and all the parents and students who were involved in an incident with his daughter. He then came to school was verbally abusive and threatening, leaned across the desk and got right up in my face – his wife pulled him back. He then did the same to the principal.

Several days later I was alone and a mother barged into my office and locked the door and stood in front of it blocking any escape. These were temporary offices and had no security. She proceeded to threaten and verbally abuse me. No one knew she was there and no one could see us. I was alone in the office as all other executive were at a school function. I repeatedly told her I had to go to teach a class and when the bell rang she silently opened the door and left.

The following day there was a violent incident between two students, one of whom had a difficult parent. The stress from the two previous incidents lead me to go on stress leave – my psych said it was adjustment disorder due to vicarious trauma.

There does not have to be physical violence for it to be considered violent.

“A group of girls started to throw food and drinks at me”

I was a regular casual at one school. It was last period on a lower level year 8 class, English. The students in this class had crossed the boundaries many times for many different teachers. This particular period, I was verbally abused, before a group of girls started to throw food and drinks at me, whilst threatening me. Some of the stuff that was thrown hit me.

One of the students went to grab the ht, who came down to investigate. That person told those involved that they could sit outside the room and rest for the rest of the period.

As for me I was told to suck it up princess because I should know how to manage the behaviour of the students better. Last day I ever worked at that school, it wasn’t the first time I had experienced verbal and physical abuse in that school, but it was surely the last.

“Threw his laptop when I objected to his language”

Had a student punch a wall in anger because of something he thought I said, which was not what I said at all. He punched the wall a good week after the conversation and misunderstanding occurred, so he was seething for ages.

Another threw his laptop when I objected to his language, “c—t”, and asked him to leave the room.

A very tall year 8 man stood over me when I was managing his behaviour after lying on the floor in a science lab.

Had a year 12 student slam his fist hard on the desk when I asked him to stop playing on his laptop and work instead.

I will say that the first two incidents I described… those boys had some pretty significant issues between home life, and severe language disorders, so I guess they didn’t have the tools to express in any other way.

The other two boys, well, one was from a war torn culture and a refugee. The other, his parents going through a divorce. That being said, their welfare was addressed – mine was never. I just got on with it. No-one ever checked if I was ok or felt comfortable with those students after the incidents. In actual fact, the student from the war torn culture cried racism and I had to go to mediation with him.

“Punched the teacher in the back and sides”

A teacher friend of mine was assaulted twice in one week during week 8 this term. The first time was when a student in year 10 threw a chair and it hit the teacher in the head. The student was not sent home straight away and proceeded to instigate and be the aggressor in 2 fights throughout the day. This incident happened around 10am and the student was still at school at the end of the day. They were given a 15 day suspension.

The second incident was a year 7 student who punched the teacher in the back and sides approximately 20 times after the teacher confiscated his basketball because he would not go to class and he swore at the teacher. That student got 4 days’ suspension.

“More of a shock than anything”

I was once on supply at a primary school in Camberwell. A small boy, can’t have been older than 6 or 7, was misbehaving and his LSA was having trouble controlling him.

She was gentle and kind with him and asking him to stay still in his chair and copy the letters but he wasn’t listening.

He then started spitting at her at which point I tried to intervene. I approached him side on and said his name firmly a few times to get his attention and said ‘can you stop spitting at X thank you’ he then took his recently sharpened pencil and stabbed me. Through my jacket.

There was another LSA in the room looking after some of the other misbehaving students and as soon as she saw it she rushed out to get the head teacher.

The boy was taken out of lessons and they asked me if I was OK and I got on with it.

It was my first day on supply there and I never returned.  Most of the pencil stayed in the blazer. It was more of a shock than anything.

“I was called a “fat ugly bitch” by one student daily”

I worked in a charter school, teaching 2nd grade, when I had my first baby. Upon returning from maternity leave (unpaid, FMLA) they had decided to keep my sub full time in my class, but had a spot to fill in fifth grade. It was November and I was this fifth grade class’s third teacher so far. I was called a “fat ugly bitch” by one student daily.

Another, who was taller than me (I’m 4’10”) enjoyed standing over me in attempts to intimidate me.

It culminated in a student charging at me with an upturned chair, legs toward me, and pinning me against a wall. He was not suspended. I quit a week later.

I currently work in a title one school, teaching first grade. While 38 weeks pregnant with my second baby, a student rammed into my stomach with his shoulder out of anger.

Teachers need hazard pay.

Some of the various consequences relayed to Emily:

The following stories are all from one teacher who wanted to highlight how varied the consequences for violence are, even within the same school.

Incident: Year 7 student punching students in classroom during practical subject. Escalated to same student taking a knife and stabbing chopping boards whilst threatening to stab the ‘snitch’.  Student then began waving knife around threatening students and a staff member. Whilst on the veranda with knife student was locked out of classroom – kept trying to get back in – lockdown initiated.  Student stabbed knife into wall and walked off before being subdued by SBPO.  Student threatened to return and burn down the buildings whilst being removed from grounds.

Consequence: suspension 20 days pending exclusion (student has had multiple suspensions before this point).

Incident: Student assaulted teacher and other students whilst they were breaking up a playground fight.  Student deliberately spat saliva and blood into face of female teacher who stopped fight.  Student is known to be a drug user and dealer and have hepatitis.  Staff member denied immediate first aid (or any other than provided by herself) and had to continue teaching final period as despite being aware of situation, administration and HOD did not attempt to or offer to cover lesson.

Consequence: student who spat in face of staff member given detention.  No follow up legally or via school administration.  Teacher told she ‘should know better’.  Teacher had to organise own testing for communicable diseases, took stress leave due to lack of support from school – retired on payout that had to be fought for.

Incident: Student in year 8 asked to sit back in chair and redirected to task. Teacher offered to assist with task.  Student picked up desk and threw at teacher hitting whiteboard behind them as they moved to avoid desk.  Considerable force used to throw desk, was deliberate and about 2 metres from staff member.

Consequence: sent home early to ‘calm down’.  No further follow up from school.

Incident: Images of penises, notes of teacher’s home address and photographs of naked men and dildos placed on windscreen of staff member’s car.  Student in point continued to make sexual comments during lessons and make sexual gestures towards female staff member. Directly aimed to make staff member uncomfortable and give reaction. Incidents reported.

Consequence: ‘boys will be boys’, not a school issue – teacher advised to seek employment elsewhere.

Incident: Student of considerable size told teacher to ‘f off’ whilst on playground duty, then followed up by punching staff member in left side and attempted to knock knees forward.  No reason other than student was upset with another staff member.

Consequence: Teacher investigated for assault as had to restrain student.  Student chose to leave of own choice.

Have you had your own experiences with violence while teaching? Share it in the comments below if you are comfortable, or send it via our contact form.

The experiences listed in this article were compiled by Emily Aslin. Click here to read more of her work.   

Are you a blogger in the education sector? Get in touch with us if you’d like School News to share your work. 

Emily Aslin

Emily Kate teaches science in Brisbane. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Botany), Masters of Communication (Science Communication) and a Graduate Diploma in Education. She is the founder and lead writer of a collaborative website called Actual Teaching – a place where ‘real teachers’ share their stories of success, challenge, and growth.

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One Comment

  1. Am currently off on Worker’s Compensation after being assaulted by a student. The same student also put in a complaint that I struck him and so I am also under an EPAC investigation over the same situation.
    Where did this come from? I had just returned to work after a period off to recover from a hip replacement. The day of the incident was the first day I walked without using a cane. Unsteady on my feet and slow to move. The student attempted to force entry into my classroom since the door had closed and locked. I opened it and he tore the door from my hand, jarring the wrist. He then physically shoved into me stating he was coming in. I calmly asked him to step back and wait for a moment till he calmed down. He continued to shove his way in. I couldn’t move. He came into contact with me again, sending me into the door frame and jarring my hip (the surgery one). I attempted to regain my balance and stand up with my hand out. He lowered his shoulder, backed up and ran at me. Shoulder charge. We connected. I hit the doorframe again but also my hand touched his chest.
    He screams “Don’t F—ing touch me, c—!!” steps back and props a fist to swing. Another student from the classroom at this point got up and placed himself between me and this aggressive young man. He was sent away not before screaming at the top of his lungs that I was “F—ing dead, c—! You are dead !!”
    My classroom is in the main administration block. The principal’s office is 20 metres down the hall. The deputy principals sit in another office around the corner from me. Literally.
    I had to leave my class and limp round to the DPs and ask for assistance. It took 15 minutes before anyone came to check on the situation. It was my Head Teacher who turned up and he berated me for not telling him that the student was causing trouble.
    That was November 2017. I have been diagnosed by psychiatrists to be suffering from severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I see a psychologist regularly and am trying to get my life back.
    What’s worse? I’m ex-military. I have combat training and worked as a bouncer before becoming a teacher. I felt completely helpless, defenseless, powerless and left to fix everything myself. The Teacher’s Federation gave the advise to walk and go home. I did.

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