October 3, 2016 by Good Teachers Work Hard
“Bullets make a terrible noise when ricocheting off metal lockers.”
There are times in your life when words come out of your mouth in a combination you never thought possible. The above quote was one of those instances. While recounting an incident that happened while teaching, I said those words. Looking at them now made me pause, even after years have passed since that day.
Growing up, fighting occurred rarely in my schools. In high school, I distinctly remember two boys having a fist fight in the cafeteria, and afterward, they shook hands. It was over. Neither boy was suspended; administration felt they were not a threat to themselves or the school population and life went on.
Today’s fights don’t develop and conclude in the same way. I have never been trained as a psychologist, but I can still share some insight into how children think today (as can many other teachers). Students I have observed in the last ten years have much less self-control than in the past. One can speculate for hours about why: broken homes (or no home at all), no role models at home, drug and alcohol abuse, gang influence,…but it doesn’t matter why. What teachers, parents, administrators, and the public need to be concerned about is that it IS an issue.
I want people to know exactly what is happening in our schools with regard to violence, so I have compiled a list of incidents that I recall from the last three years (I’m not sure I trust my memory to go much farther back than that!). It is by no means exhaustive – I know I am forgetting some incidents. In full disclosure, a few of the incidents (four) are firsthand accounts from close teacher friends. Some personally involved me, and others occurred in my schools. I write this list with a whole host of emotions: mainly sadness, but with anger, frustration, and empathy too. As you read this, know that these incidents took place at average, suburban, public schools – not in inner city schools. I will include the reasoning behind each fight if I recall it.
- Student 1 stabbed Student 2 in the hallway with a pencil that Student 1 sharpened before leaving my class (gang-related)
- Student 1 had Student 2 on the ground and was pulling the hair of Student 2 out in chunks (Student 2 had called Student 1 a whore).
- Student 1 hit Student 2 with a closed fist and broke the cheekbone of Student 2 (Student 2 had taken the books of Student 1).
- Student 1 knocked the teeth out of Student 2 with one punch (gang-related).
- Student 1 stabbed Teacher 1 in the hand with a pencil.
- Student 1 pushed Student 2 into Teacher 1, which led to Teacher 1 getting punched in the chest.
- Student 1 kicked Principal 1, breaking the knee of Principal 1.
- Student 1 tried to hit Student 2 in the face with hand sanitizer. Student 2 ran near Teacher 1. Teacher 1 was hit in the chest with the hand sanitizer (Students 1 and 2 were friends who thought a fight with hand sanitizer was funny).
- Student 1 tripped Student 2, thinking it was funny. Student 2 fell into Student 3. Student 3 picked Student 2 up and punched Student 2 in the side of the head, causing a temporary loss of consciousness.
- Student 1 passed a basketball at Student 2 during Phys. Ed. Student 2 thought the pass was too hard and attacked Student 1. Other students joined the fight. Twelve students were suspended in all.
- Teacher 1 attempted to break up a fight between two students. Student 1 subsequently broke the wrist of Teacher 1 (fight was gang-related).
- Student 1 threw a book at Teacher 1 intentionally.
- Teacher 1 witnessed a fight across the cafeteria, but the crowds of students surrounding the fight made it almost impossible to reach. Teacher 1 opted to run across the tops of cafeteria tables to reach the fight quicker (students were fighting over a love interest).
- Student 1 punched Student 2 in the cafeteria. Student 2 began to vomit and subsequently lost consciousness (fight was drug-related).
- Student 1 accidentally closed a locker on the fingers of Student 2. Student 2 grabbed Student 1 by the back of the head and repeatedly slammed the head of Student 1 into the lockers.
- Student 1 waited outside of a school sporting event to attack Student 2 with a machete (gang-related).
- Student 1 kicked Student 2 repeatedly and caused Student 2 to sustain multiple contusions and a concussion (Student 2 looked at the love interest of Student 1 — yes, looked).
- Teacher 1 was breaking up a fight between five students when they all fell. Teacher 1 and Student 1 were taken to the hospital with concussions.
- Student 1 stabbed Student 2 in the backside with a pencil (these students were friends – Student 1 thought it would be funny to do this).
- Student 1 had Student 2 in a chokehold because of something that was lost in translation due to a language barrier.
- Student 1 threatened to “f**k up” Student 2 if Student 2 kept looking at Student 1. Student 1 did not relent, so Student 1 started punching Student 2. Student 2 fought back, and both students were taken to the hospital for their injuries.
- Teacher 1 was breaking up a large fight when Student 1 accidentally hit Teacher 1 in the throat. Teacher 1 was taken to the hospital for breathing-related issues.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that there are 3.5 million teachers in elementary and secondary schools as of 2014 (this number includes teachers in both public and private schools). If each teacher is involved in, or personally witnesses, at least 18 incidents of violence (22 minus the four supplied by teacher friends) in a three year period (and I am underestimating here, as stated above), that averages to six incidents per year.
3.5 million teachers x 6 incidents = 21,000,000 incidents of violence per year
Twenty-one million incidents of violence in our schools EACH YEAR.
Let that sink in for a minute.