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Violence Against Teachers Rises During, After Pandemic

Students pushed Nevada middle school teacher into a set of lockers and ended up dazed on the floor. So far this year, students in the Washoe County School District have committed more than three dozen acts of criminal battery against staff. “Most minutes of the school day everything is fine, but then there are these flashpoints of violence,” school board president Beth Smith tells the Wall Street Journal. Across the U.S., violence against teachers has increased since the widespread return to in-person learning in 2021, and in some areas the problem is worse than it was prepandemic. The data are limited, because many states don’t track teacher assaults. From September through May, the number of assault-related workers’ compensation claims filed at 2,000 schools around the U.S. topped 1,350, a five-year high, says claims and risk-management services firm Gallagher Bassett. The average cost of claims increased 26% to $6,700 compared with 2018-19.

High-profile attacks on educators have made national headlines, such as in Newport News, Va., where a 6-year-old student shot teacher Abigail Zwerner in January. In March, two administrators at Denver’s East High School were shot by a 17-year-old student who fled and was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot. In a nationwide American Psychological Association survey of nearly 15,000 teachers and staff from July 2020 to June 2021, 14% of teachers reported physical violence from students, and 49% of teachers said they wanted to quit or switch schools. Many teachers are hurt intervening in fights, some are targeted. The incidents go along with more attention on violence in schools, including fighting and bullying among students. “Across the board, we continue to see significant mental and behavioral health challenges with youth, some of which are manifesting in violence and aggression to fellow students and staff,” said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach of the National Association of School Psychologists. She said greater access to school psychologists, counselors and social workers is needed, along with increased involvement of families.

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