1 in 5 teachers don't report violent incidents to administrators, study says

March 12, 2018
Author of study says schools may need to re-evaluate how they support teachers who are victims of violence.

One in five teachers who were the victims of physical or verbal violence at their schools didn’t report the incidents to school administrators, a nationwide study found.

Ohio State University says in a news release that the results of the study showed that significant minorities of teachers who experienced violence didn’t tell their colleagues or family, or seek counseling.

“You would think that the first thing a teacher would do after a violent encounter or threat would be to tell the school’s administrators, but 20 percent aren’t even doing that,” says Eric Anderman, lead author of the study and professor of educational psychology at Ohio State.

The research found that 14 percent didn't tell their colleagues about such incidents, and 24 percent didn't tell family members. Only 12 percent went to a counselor.

“Too many teachers aren’t talking to anyone about what happened,” says Anderman.

The study was published in the journal Social Psychology of Education.

 Anderman and his colleagues surveyed 3,403 K-12 teachers from across the nation; 2,505 teachers who responded said they had been the victims of some form of violence.

Teachers were asked to describe in writing “the most upsetting incident” at school in which they were the target of students’ verbal or physical aggression or intimidation.

One-quarter of the teachers reported actual physical abuse or assault, 20 percent reported threats of physical violence and 37 percent described verbal insults, disrespectful language or inappropriate sexual advances.

Another 8 percent didn’t write about the details of the violent incident itself, but about a lack of support from school leaders and colleagues who were told about the abuse.

The study examined how teachers reacted to the violence against them.

Results showed that the more teachers blamed themselves for the incident, the more likely they were to report feeling anger and having unpleasant physiological responses, which in turn was related to a greater likelihood of talking to others about the incident.

But those feelings of anger triggered by self-blame also were linked to a lower likelihood that teachers notified the parents of the student perpetrator about the incident. Some research suggests teachers are more likely to talk to parents when they feel effective at work and are more committed to their job, Anderman says.

Anderman also noted that teachers were more likely to talk to their colleagues about violent incidents than with their administrators.

“Some schools may need to re-evaluate how they can support and help teachers who are victims of violence,” he says.

The study was supported by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Psychology in Schools and Education.

Anderman conducted the study with Dorothy Eseplage of the University of Florida; Linda Reddy of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Susan McMahon of DePaul University; Andrew Martinez of the Center for Court Innovation; Katherine Lynne Lane of the University of Kansas; Cecil Reynolds of Texas A&M University; and Narmada Paul of Ohio State.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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