Study: Threats, Physical Attacks on School Staff Have Increased During COVID

The increase in violence is leading to more teachers, SROs, counselors, administrators, and other school personnel leaving the profession.

A study just released by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that during the pandemic, rates of violence and aggression against K-12 school personnel were high, despite most schools being remote during the survey. A third of teachers surveyed reported they experienced at least one incident of verbal and/or threatening violence from students during COVID. Those incidents included verbal threats, cyber bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment. More than two in five school administrators reported verbal or threatening violence from parents during the pandemic.

Paraprofessionals, school counselors, instructional aides, and school resource officers (SROs) reported the highest rates of student physical violence (22%), while 18% of school psychologists and social workers, 15% of administrators, and 14% of teachers reported at least one violent incident by a student during the pandemic.

Some of the examples of school violence cited by the report include:

  • “I have been physically assaulted multiple times by students in the building and they know that not only is there no one to stop them, but there will be no consequences either. I ended up in the hospital the last time it happened.”
  • “Parents have been more aggressive and verbally abusive to teachers in our district since COVID. The social media posts by parents are vicious and they don’t seem to remember that teachers were already undervalued, underpaid, and overworked before the pandemic. Those feelings have only been made worse by the pandemic.”
  • “I have never had such aggression toward me from the community, the board of education, and my administration in my life. If I could financially quit I would. The belittling of concerns and bullying of teachers from other adults has pushed so many of us to a breaking point. I have been called ungrateful, lazy, whiny, entitled, uncaring, heartless, selfish, stupid, and more. By adults.”

Nearly half of the teachers surveyed said they want or plan to quit or transfer their jobs due to their concerns about school climate and safety, while 34% of school psychologists/social workers, 29% of staff, and 31% of administrators said they want to or plan on quitting or transferring due to school security and climate issues.

The report suggested schools and school districts support educator and student mental health and well-being, as well as promote trauma-informed practices. It also suggested including educator voices in decision-making regarding practices, discipline, placement staffing, and school climate. Some of the other suggestions included:

  • Increase resources to build campus capacity
  • Provide evidence-based programming, such as interventions geared toward preventing violence and creating positive school climates
  • Enhance teacher-parent partnerships
  • Reduce use of zero-tolerance policies, suspensions, and school hardening strategies, replacing them with non-punitive approaches, such as mediation and de-escalation

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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