MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – School administrators have seen an influx of violent threats from parents during the pandemic, according to a recently released technical report from the American Psychological Association.
“This is a new problem,” a staff member who was surveyed wrote. “It used to be the kids. Now it is the adults.”
The aggression mostly came from parents who did not want their students to wear a mask to school, had politicized the pandemic or by parents who blamed the schools for learning loss, according to the Violence Against Educators and School Personnel: Crisis During COVID report.
The survey was answered by about 15,000 employees during the 2020-21 academic year. It found that one-third of teachers said they’d been threatened by students during COVID-19.
Administrators were the most likely to answer that they’ve been threatened violence by parents, with 40% stating they’d experienced it during that academic year. About 29% of teachers said that a parent had threatened violence against them.
Middle school teachers were the most likely to answer that they’d received violent threats from students and parents.
Teachers reported that they’d been blocked online by parents when they tried to reach out about helping their students.
“Parents have been more difficult than students this year,” one educator wrote. “Our school system has been attacked frequently.”
Another said that they were cyberstalked because they support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Others have experienced outrage from parents about the move to online and hybrid learning.
“I have been called ungrateful, lazy, whiney, entitled, uncaring, heartless, selfish, stupid, and more,” a teacher answered in the report.
Physical aggression was most likely to come from students. Among school employees, all said they had “significant concerns” about their safety in the pandemic, including for their health in relation to COVID-19. They also reported concerns about neighborhood safety, poverty and children living in unstable homes.
“Participants cited the need for additional training and services for staff and students, including mental health, trauma-informed care and cultural awareness,” the report reads.
The amount of employees who said they experienced physical violence at school ranged from 14% to 22%, with social workers most likely to report that they’d been attacked, and teachers the least likely.
“Even under conditions of remote or hybrid instruction, teachers and school personnel reported experiencing significant physical violence (e.g. objects thrown at participants, ordinary objects weaponized, and physical attacks), primarily from students,” the report reads.
The violence decreased during online learning, but then resumed when school returned to in-person classes.
Some social workers reported that they have PTSD from being attacked daily, with one writing that “In September it occurred to me one of the reasons I was experiencing a reduction in stress was because I hadn’t been physically injured by a child in months.”
Another said that “Sometimes leaving the school worries me, as there are parents who believe we have ‘taken their kids away’ or called DCF on them. They may act rashly.”
A teacher said that they’ve been assaulted by students multiple times and “they know that not only is there no one to stop them but there will be no consequences either. I ended up in the hospital the last time it happened.”
Employees said that students who refused to wear a mask didn’t face any punishments.
Educators urged districts to streamline the process of identifying students for special educational or behavioral supports, stating that it takes an average of eight months for a “violent disruptive student” to get additional help. Teachers also said they wanted de-escalation training.
“I fear being shot and attacked all the time during in-person learning,” a staff member wrote. “I feel like I will die at work at the hands of a student.” They added that “The grocery store has better security than our public schools.”
The survey found out that 43% of teachers wanted to quit and 22% wanted to transfer during the 2020-21 academic year. Administrators had a 27% desire to quit and a 13% desire to transfer.
Those rates were higher in the Northeast and the South, where 38% of school employees said they wanted to quit.
LGBTQ employees also had higher rates, with 45% of bisexual respondents and 41% of gay and lesbian respondents stating they wanted to quit, compared to 36% of heterosexual employees.
South Carolina saw an increase in teachers leaving the profession this academic year, according to a November 2021 supply and demand report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
About 6,900 South Carolina teachers in the 2020-21 school year did not return to a teaching or service position within the same district for this year – a 15.5% increase from the previous year. Of those, 34% said they left for external reasons, listed as “personal” or “family,” 18.5% retired and 27% either did not list a reason, or their district did not collect or report a reason. More then a third of teachers who left had less than five years of classroom experience.
There were also 50% more vacant teaching and service positions compared to the previous year — the highest amount since the survey was first administered in 2001.