Teachers Advised Not to Report Acts of Violence

Surely teachers are one of the most important figures in the educational process. If you were to do a hierarchy of influence when it comes to the education of a child, surely the teacher would feature prominently.

Why then, are teachers treated as if they offer next to nothing? Why is such a crucial ingredient in successful educational outcomes disrespected to the point where they aren’t able to defend a loss of dignity or report a physical assault?

The story below may come from New Zealand, but it looms as a universal story if the treatment and welfare of teachers doesn’t improve dramatically:

A teacher is punched in the face, another is shoved in the chest and their lunch stolen, one is regularly verbally abused while another has their car vandalised. But at the schools’ request, none of it is reported to police.

Post-Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff called the situation “intolerable”.

He said, in the PPTA News, the teachers’ union could not continue to be “complicit in this conspiracy of silence” that concealed the level of violence within schools.

He said competitiveness in schools gave them an incentive to hide issues of violence towards teachers and staff, and some schools did not want police involved because it could lead to negative publicity.

The national executive was “particularly concerned” to learn that some schools were actually forbidding teachers from reporting instances to police.

In one case a teacher was sitting in their classroom eating lunch when a student walked in and punched them in the face. The school told the teacher not to go to police because it would be dealt with internally. Nothing happened.

Another a teacher was shoved in the chest and their lunch was taken.

There were also numerous reports of teachers being punched, kicked or threatened, and property including cars and houses, being vandalised.

One teacher said every teacher knew a colleague who had been verbally abused, physically threatened or suffered instances with students out of control and a risk to themselves and others.

“Senior management of schools are under pressure to reduce instances of suspension and expulsion and we all know of instances where there is pressure not to report assaults on persons, or criminal damage to teachers’ property.”

Standardised testing, dismissing so-called “poor teacher”, increasing teacher’s responsibilities and paperwork demands are all methods for improving the academic standards of schools.

I would argue that all those methods are doomed to failure. Any other initiative will have a similar fate, unless it comes on the back of a recognition that the teacher is a crucial stakeholder in the education of our children. Until they are respected, supported and appreciated, our children are unlikely to reach their potential.


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10 Responses to “Teachers Advised Not to Report Acts of Violence”

  1. Mike Feurstein Says:

    Our Ex-Superintendent Eric Ely (notorious for also concealing terroristic acts inside of our school district – http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/419/petty-tyrant) mandated underreporting in schools here so that we could be taken off the unsafe schools list.

    This included burying multiple incidents by students, combining a fight into “one” disciplinary sheet (as opposed to citing each of the students involved) and “thinning” student records. I had the principal of a middle school stand right in front of me (blurt a racial epithet) and then shred the only referral I’d written all year. She actually sneered while she did it.

    What is happening around here.

  2. John Tapscott Says:

    Does anyone suppose this devaluation of teachers has anything to do with fear that, if teachers’ real worth was recognised, perhaps they would demand higher wages? Not only do I believe this to be the case, I also believe this is the reason why such principals as those cited are able to attain to their positions.

    Studies (eg Duncan and Riley (2003, 2004)) continue to show a high level of teacher bullying (up to 97%) across the board, with very little being done about it by authorites. It seems to me that bullying as a management tool is highly valued, especially in systems that rely heavily on mass standardised testing. I have personally heard a high ranking HR executive in one school system deny the occurrence of teacher bullying, and referring to it as (something else) legitimate performance management procedure. This is going on while bullying is officially deprecated (No Way) and dedicated teaching staff are hounded out of the profession. Can anyone not conclude, in the face of abundant evidence (see also Bad Apple Bullies), that denigration, devaluation and bullying of teachers is not part of unwritten official policy?!

    Indeed there seems to be a conspiracy of silence surrounding the issue, as a Google search of “bullying” will reveal. Most official references to bullying concern issues of student bullying, My contention is that student bullying can only persist in a culture that supports bullying as a management practice. This, I suspect, is because in such a culture the real issues surrounding bullying are not recognised.

  3. makethea Says:

    Reblogged this on makethea and commented:
    In support of the documentary Bully…

  4. Lynne Diligent Says:

    Is this conspriacy of silence part of the New Zealand culture, or just the culture of a couple of schools? It’s shocking.

  5. John Tapscott Says:

    A conspiracy of silence occurs wherever hypocritical management exists. Bullying, on the one hand is condemned, but on the other hand practised. Whenever bullying is mentioned the focus is on students as a smokescreen to keep the focus off management.

    • Mike Feurstein Says:

      Our bullying series, How to UnMake, will eventually address the damage teachers can do if they are undereducated or just plain mean. Any anecdotes will help us fill out the storyline.

      • Michael G. Says:

        Mike, I showed How to UnMake a Bully again to a new class. Within minutes of the film’s ending, a student approached me about bullying behaviour he has been experiencing. It is that brilliant! It just cuts through! I’ve never seen a film about bullying that so brilliantly humanises the bully whilst never excusing the behaviour.

    • Michael G. Says:

      Unfortunately hypocritical management is rampant.

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