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Nearly half of teachers surveyed in new report say they want to quit because of safety concerns

Northeast Ohio incident shows what the data represents
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - An alarming number of teachers say they want to leave their careers, because they don’t feel safe in the classroom, according to a new report.

19 Investigates just covered a local story that’s turned into a prime example of what researchers found in their research.

Eric Anderman still remembers the day he was threatened by a student he caught cheating decades ago.

“It was a very scary threat. It felt really scary,” he said.

Anderman says his administrators weren’t on the same page in handling the issue.

“It was a very unsettling experience,” he said.

He went on to become a professor and now researcher at the Ohio State University, where he most recently worked with a team to study safety concerns in the classroom.

“Most of the research on this is about violence towards kids, and it should be, but violence against teachers has not been a priority,” he said.

What researchers found is shocking and disappointing.

“It made me feel that we still have a problem,” Anderman said.

Anderman and his team surveyed a sample of 14,966 participants includes 9,370 teachers, 860 administrators, 1,499 school psychologists and social workers and 3,237 other school staff members.

According to the research released by the American Psychological Association, 49 percent of all teachers reported they desire or plan to quit or transfer their jobs due to concerns about school climate and school safety.

“There’s already a teacher shortage,” he said. “Even if a third of these teacher leave who say they are going to leave actually do, who’s going to be teaching our kids? It’s a very serious crisis, potentially.”

We’re already seeing evidence of the problem here in Northeast Ohio.

A few weeks ago, 19 investigates uncovered a case where a student made it back onto a school bus and into the classroom with this knife after parents say they reported the problem to administrators.

Ziad Teyah is now representing the parents who notified the school.

“The school responded and said they would take care of it. they did not take care of it,” he said.

During our conversation with him he also talked about his concern for teachers.

“We have indication that a lot of the teachers at the school were particularly offended by what happened, because it’s not just the students at risk. It’s also the teachers,” he said.

In a public Facebook post, one teacher voiced disappointment with the way administrators handled the safety concern.

At the end of his post, the educator writes “I want to continue working at the school I love, but I also demand that they put the safety of students and staff above their need to avoid embarrassment and accountability.”

Parents say they want to see both students and teachers feel safe, hoping they don’t lose good teachers to bad circumstances.

“We hope that through whatever action we have to take that we can do what we can to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future,” Teyah said.

The research in the report also shows how threats of violence increased from students and parents during the pandemic.

The report says, “Rates of violence and aggression against school personnel are high despite most schools being remote during the time of the survey. One-third of surveyed teachers reported they experienced at least one incident of verbal and/or threatening violence from students during COVID (e.g., verbal threats, cyber bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment). Over 40% of school administrators reported verbal or threatening violence from parents during COVID. These rates of violence are extremely problematic and may contribute to teachers and school personnel wanting to quit or transfer.”

In hopes of broadly tackling the issue, Anderman says he and his team went before congress to discuss their findings a few months ago.

He says schools need more resources to provide mental health services to students and parents portraying violence.

And, Anderman says administrators need ways to include teachers more in decision making.

Here are some of the things educators said on their surveys that were in Anderman’s report:

TEACHER: “We need policies, procedures, and interventions to identify, address, and respond to student behaviors that lie outside the management capabilities of K-1 teachers in the general education program.”

SOCIAL WORKER: “Increased education on the reasons students use violence, ways to intervene in this and an increased awareness of cultural and racial issues related to this, particularly OUR internal responses to someone of a different racial or ethnic background.”

SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST: “Given proper resources, we could gain insight from all our communities (Hmong/Karen/Karenni/Sudanese/East African immigrant and all low-income families) to identify their needs and coordinate with community services and supports to mitigate those needs.”

ADMINISTRATOR: “Our largest concern is staffing. Often we have to scramble to find staff to cover classes and meet the other needs within the school.”

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