Should a Teacher Intervene When a Fight Erupts?

What is a teacher to do when a fight erupts in their classroom?  That is the question doing the rounds at the moment, thanks to the case of a Dallas teacher who responded to a fist fight in his classroom by doing absolutely nothing.

Video of a student punching another student in a local classroom has sparked a debate about student safety. More precisely, should teachers get involved to break up fights?

The Dallas Independent School District said it is still investigating a fight that apparently happened this past Thursday at Seagoville High School. The district believes YouTube video of the incident likely tells only part of the story.

The video shows 17-year-old Michael Milczanowksi getting punched over and over during geometry class. His teacher stands by watching as he appears to take several blows to the head.

While it may seem the teacher could have intervened, a teacher’s union president said that is not what teachers are told to do.

“In today’s society which is a violent society, you do not touch the student. That should be left up to the administration,” said Rena Honea of Alliance-AFT. “I believe that that is for the safety of number one the students, but for the individual teacher as well.”

The district said it has no policy on how teachers should handle student fights because every situation is different.

“The altercation on the video shot at Seagoville High School is clearly inappropriate. The district has zero tolerance for violence in the classroom and has responded accordingly,” DISD said in a statement.

DISD said the student who threw the punches in the video has faced disciplinary action and could face assault charges. But the district would not comment on if the teacher was disciplined because “it’s a personnel matter.”

The video of the fight can be viewed by following this link.

The teacher has been supported by both school and union based on the fact that teachers are not covered for injuries incurred from breaking up a fight.  Why not?  Why can’t a teacher in today’s age have insurance cover for injuries, both incidental and reckless, at the hands of students?

And just because he may have the right to refrain from breaking up a fight, how is it excusable for him to sit back and watch as his student is being punched by a classmate?  Why wasn’t the teacher instructing someone to call for help?  Where is the urgency?  Why doesn’t he react in any way?

What is the point of calling yourself a safe and secure environment for children if you are not compelled to actively and decisively do everything in your power to ensure that your students are safe?

It’s time for insurance companies to remove the stumbling block that deters teachers from breaking up fights.  It’s time for schools to improve their culture and hand out severe consequences for bullies and bullying behaviour.  And it’s time for teachers to do what they can to curb bullying and protect victims.

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4 Responses to “Should a Teacher Intervene When a Fight Erupts?”

  1. Margaret Reyes Dempsey Says:

    As I was reading this, prior to watching the video, I was thinking about my opinion. Should teachers intervene in fights? Everyone is different. Not all people are brave when it comes to things like that. Heck, I bet some teachers were bullied as kids themselves and might go into freeze mode when they see violence erupt in front of them. However, teachers do have the responbility to be sure the kids in their classrooms are safe, and that means calling for help if they can’t handle a situation.

    At this point in my thinking, I went to the video tape and was APPALLED. Can I just say that again…APPALLED. I fully expected to see something that could be interpreted in different ways. Nope. This guy looked like he was a spectator in a boxing gym, enjoying a match. Except one kid was getting punched repeatedly in the head. Even in a boxing match, a referee will step in when things get too crazy. Jeez. He should be disciplined without a doubt.

    • Michael G. Says:

      I completely agree Margaret. This was newsworthy, not because the teacher didn’t break up the fight, but because he did absolutely nothing. It looks like he is casually watching, perhaps even with his hands in his pockets.

  2. chris Says:

    i know from first hand experiance that teachers should never intervene in a fight, i went to Granville Boys Highschool in south west Sydney, these suburbs have the highest levels of violence and weapons in the country. When i was in grade 8 (send year of high school for us) a year 10 student punched my friend me and a few mates started giving the older student a good “kick-in” however the teacher on duty tried to intervene and in the west subs thats a big NO-NO…the teacher was put into a coma for 2 and a half months, we were all charged with aggrevated assoult… i spent 12 months locked up becouse i was the alledged “ring leader”, my belief is diffreant geo areas have diffreant sets of unwritten rules so the teacher should have known “if i jump in here…there not going to stop”

  3. A MIMMS Says:

    I agree with the previous comment. I KNOW from experience that we should NEVER get in the middle of a fight! Teachers are not covered medically and cannot sue if they are hurt beyond minor injuries. It is always best to allow school police or call school administration to deal with aggressive behaviors.

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