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  • Posted March 17, 2022

U.S. Teachers Often Faced Harassment, Violence During Pandemic: Poll

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on America's teachers, and nearly half of those recently surveyed said they're thinking about quitting their jobs or switching schools.

Enforcing mask-wearing and pivoting to remote learning hasn't been easy. But many teachers and other school staff have also endured harassment and threats of violence from students and parents during the pandemic, the survey showed.

"As teachers and schools learn to adjust to the realities of education during COVID, it is important to understand school safety concerns and how best to address them to create an effective and safe environment for students, teachers and school staff," said Susan Dvorak McMahon, chair of the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Violence Against Educators and School Personnel.

"Violence against educators is a public health problem, and we need comprehensive, research-based solutions," McMahon said in an APA news release.

The task force's nationwide poll was conducted July 2020 to June 2021. It included 9,370 teachers, 860 administrators, nearly 1,500 school psychologists and social workers, and more than 3,200 other pre-K through 12th-grade school staff members, such as paraprofessionals, instructional aides, school resource officers and school counselors.

More than 94% of the participants worked at public schools.

One-third of teachers reported at least one incident of verbal harassment or threatening behavior from a student, and 29% reported at least one incident from a parent of a student. The rates were even higher for school administrators, 37% and 42%, respectively.

About 14% of teachers reported incidents of physical violence from a student, along with 18% of school psychologists and social workers, 15% of school administrators and 22% of other school staff.

As a result, nearly half of teachers said they wanted to or planned to quit or transfer to another school. More said they wanted to quit (43%) than to transfer (26%). Large percentages of school psychologists and school social workers, school administrators and other school staff -- roughly 30% in each category -- also disclosed a desire or plan to quit or transfer.

"Current and future decisions to leave the field of education affect the quality of our schools and the next generations of learners, teachers and school leaders in the nation," McMahon said. "Physical and verbal violence directed against school personnel may be exacerbating reports of high stress, transfers and leaving the profession."

The task force planned to present the survey findings at a congressional briefing Thursday. It has also made a number of recommendations to reduce school violence and threats against school staff.

More information

The U.S. Department of Justice says it plans to address violence and threats against school staff.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, March 17, 2022

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