Study reveals increase in violence against teachers from students, parents post-pandemic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Teachers across the country are reporting an increase in physical violence and verbal harassment by students, according to a new study released Thursday by the American Psychological Association.


The data shows it’s become a problem after the pandemic.

The group heard from thousands of educators through two surveys—one in 2020, asking about what educators experienced pre-pandemic, and another in 2022.

This month, in our series Teachers under Attack, 9 Investigates has revealed the harsh realities teachers are facing in the classroom.

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

In our exclusive survey, we heard from more than 8,000 teachers nationwide. 2,500 of them teach in Florida. Many of them told us, they’re afraid to go to school and have considered quitting because of violence from students.

“I’ve been hit and kicked, pushed a lot, pinched, bitten, scratched. I have had things thrown at me a lot,” said Brevard County teacher Christa Luke.

Luke agrees the violence in schools has only gotten worse.

She’s been a teacher for more than 20 years. She’s taught in Brevard County Public Schools for 10 of those.

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

She said the increased violence has pushed her-- at some points-- to consider quitting the profession.

“It was like a volatile storm every single day, on top of the crazy amounts of paperwork that I had to do and the actual trying to actually teach and caring,” Luke said. “It’s like being abused every day.”

Despite having supportive staff and administrators, Luke said she asked her supervisor for a different position at her school-- because of the violence. Now, she’s taking it year-by-year on whether she’ll stay in the profession.

According to the study, 42% of teachers surveyed reported at least one attack prior to the pandemic. That number rose to 56% by the time pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Dr. Susan McMahon helped lead the study. She’s the chair of the American Psychological Association task force on Violence against Educators and School Personnel.  McMahon believes the increase in violence is caused by stresses produced by the pandemic.

“With going remote and teaching online, and then you combine that with learning losses, all of the challenges that we experienced in during the pandemic with loss of life and stress-- think that those kinds of things contributed to an overall, even more challenging time in schools,” McMahon said.

Teachers are also reporting more verbal attacks by students.

Pre-pandemic, 65% of teachers surveyed reported verbal harassment or threatening behavior from a student. By 2022, 80 percent of teachers reported it.

“I get called an idiot by, you know, on a daily basis, in other things that you can’t see on camera,” Luke said. “I might be doing breakfast duty and saying, ‘hey, we can’t go there’ or ‘clean up your mess’ and it becomes a tirade.”

The study found the verbal harassment isn’t only caused by students-- but parents too!

Pre-pandemic, 53% of teachers surveyed reported at least one incident of verbal harassment or threatening behavior from a parent or guardian.

By 2022, 63% of teachers reported it.

McMahon says verbal harassment and threatening behavior can include intimidation, bullying, threats, or even sexual harassment.

“You just have some parents who are like, ‘my kid wouldn’t do that’ or, ‘well, what did the teacher do?’ The big thing is that teachers are looked at as the enemies,” Luke said.

The study found parents’ bad behavior towards teachers have gone beyond verbal harassment. Prior to the pandemic, only 1 percent of teachers reported violent encounters with parents. That number jumped to 26% post-pandemic.

McMahon says the data points to the need for schools to develop relationships with parents.

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

In our exclusive nationwide survey, two-thirds of the teachers surveyed blame lack of parent involvement or discipline as a key factor in student behavior.

McMahon added there also needs to be more awareness about the violence teachers experience.

“If we can recognize what’s going on for them, we might be able to have more empathy and might be less likely to lash out when there’s an issue,” McMahon said.

“Teachers need support from parents. We’re on the same side,” Luke said.

Read: Survey: 60% of teachers are afraid to go to school

As we’ve reported earlier in our series, 58 percent of Florida teachers who took our survey said they have considered retiring or quitting because of the violence.

The study by the APA is reporting a large amount as well.

McMahon says they found teachers are feeling unprepared for the violence and harassment they experience. She said all of this points to the fact policy changes are urgently needed from the school districts to the state level. Teachers consistently asked for more training in de-escalation strategies, threat assessments, and trauma-informed strategies.

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