Florida lawmakers respond to survey that shows over half of educators have faced violence at school

ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates is digging into the physical threats our teachers face and taking our questions to the nation’s capital.


We teamed up with our 8 sister stations nationwide to survey thousands of educators about violence against them. What we found was staggering.

9 Investigates’ Ashlyn Webb dug into what these numbers mean and what the federal government plans to do about it.

We talked to two Florida congressmen, and it’s clear that even education policy is partisan because each side had a very different approach to the problem.

Read: What Florida teachers told 9 Investigates about violence in the classroom

When it comes to the violence teachers face in the classroom, both sides can agree on this.

“This is something that teachers should not have to worry about,” said Republican Rep. Aaron Bean.

“We need a more reasonable environment for teachers ... a safe environment,” said Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.

But how that’s accomplished has lawmakers at odds.

SEE: What teachers told us about violence in the classroom

Read: Survey: Majority of Florida teachers say not enough resources to combat student violence

Jacksonville Congressman Aaron Bean, chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, said the feds should stay out of it.

“Education is largely a state issue. We support the states and what they do,” Bean explained.

But fellow Florida Congressman Darren Soto said the state, at least in Florida, is the problem.

“We’re seeing mandate after mandate from back in Tallahassee adding on requirements and high stakes testing that has gone haywire, so we need a more reasonable environment for teachers, a safe environment, and they need to be paid a fair wage,” Soto said.

Florida is the lowest-ranked state for teacher pay, and after salaries, teachers say violence is the second reason they leave the profession.

Florida tracks violence in schools, but there isn’t a category to track violence against teachers. So, 9 Investigates teamed up with our sister stations to survey educators, and more than 2,500 responded.

About 65% of Florida teachers surveyed said they’ve been subjected to physical violence at least once, and almost half (47%) said it has happened more than once.

Bean did say there should be a national mandate to track violence against teachers, but Soto wants to go further. He co-sponsored the Teacher Health and Wellness Act. It would require the National Institutes of Health to study how to reduce teacher stress to keep more of them in the classroom.

“We’re going to continue to need to work on mental health, on security and on teacher pay for the foreseeable future,” Soto said.

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