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Study: One in Five Teachers Don’t Report Classroom Violence

One in five teachers do not report incidents of violence they experience in their classrooms, according to a study led by an Ohio State University researcher.

The study, paid for by the American Psychological Association, surveyed 3,403 K-12 teachers in 48 states. More than 2,500 responded that they had experienced some type of physical or verbal abuse by a student, a threat of violence, or an inappropriate sexual advance.

Twenty-percent of respondents said they did not report the incident to an administrator, while 24 percent said they did not share with family and 14 percent with colleagues.

Eric Anderman, an OSU Professor and the lead researcher on the project, said there is also a correlation between the emotions a teacher experienced following an incident and how he or she responded.

Anger is more likely to result in a teacher reporting the incident to an administrator, colleague, or family member, while feelings of self-blame significantly decreased reporting, according to the study.

“Only 12 percent of the teachers who experienced any form of violence actually went to a counselor,” seeking mental or emotionally support, Anderman said, and those teachers likely experienced feelings of sadness or depression following the incident.

Anderman said the national study is the first to focus specifically on violence against teachers.

It was the work of a team of researchers appointed to a task force to study the issue, but Anderman said the task force had very little information from which to begin their work.

“It could be the case that schools don’t want to report these things because they don’t want to look like the school is unsafe,” he said. “So, we don’t know how much of a problem it is, but we know it’s more than people realize.”

Without a grasp on the prevalence of the issue, Anderman said researchers cannot determine if violence pushes teachers from or prevents people from entering the profession.

He hopes the initial study will result in more interest from private entities or the federal government to fund such research and potentially the creation of a central database where teachers can report their experiences.

“I think we spend an enormous amount of time talking about violence against kids in school, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s not important,” Anderman said, “but we focus so much on the kids that we forget sometimes that the teachers really had a bad thing happen too.”

Anderman added his study is not about school safety, but about the factors that lead a teacher to report a violent incident and the support they receive after doing so.

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Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.