Nebraska teachers report bruises, cuts, torn ligaments, a broken nose, concussions and being hit in the stomach while pregnant in a survey conducted by the Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) that asked its members for information about student violence they have encountered in the classroom.
“The fact is that teachers are hit, scratched, kicked, bitten and punched by troubled students – and it’s a daily occurrence in schools across Nebraska,” said Jenni Benson, president of the 28,000-member NSEA. “The stories from educators are heartbreaking – and they are a clarion call for action.
“We are urging state lawmakers to work with us to address this crisis of violent student behavior. We need additional mental and behavioral health resources for our students, and we need statewide clarity regarding when and how school staff can intervene to protect themselves and their students.
“Our goal is to ensure that all students and staff can learn and teach in a safe and supportive environment. We need state and school district support for teachers, education support professionals and students to address this issue.”
NSEA sent the survey in mid-December. Thus far, responses have been received from more than 160 NSEA members who have observed or been the victims of violence while teaching. The responses included pleas for additional services for students, additional school staff, and support from state and school district officials, according to Benson.
“This is a statewide concern,” said Benson. “We need more training for staff. We need additional resources in our rural, urban and suburban schools, and we need strong administrative and legislative support for our teachers.”
Benson said the NSEA will work with lawmakers to pass legislation to address the issue, including LB147, the student discipline bill. LB147 allows a teacher to have a student removed from their classroom when the teacher has documented that such student has repeatedly interfered with the teacher’s ability maintain a learning environment or if the student’s immediate behavior is so unruly, disruptive, or abusive that it interferes with the learning of other students.
The student can be returned to the room when a plan is in place to ensure safety and success. It also outlines a teacher’s right to physically intervene when a student becomes violent and is a danger to themselves or others.
“As educators, we understand that many students who are causing disruptions are acting out based on some trauma they have experienced in their own life,” said Benson. “NSEA supports ongoing training for educators that focuses on de-escalation and prevention. As an organization, we have provided and will continue to provide such trainings. It is important that the state and every school districts help in that effort.
“Teachers need to be supported by the administration in order to maintain a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. All students deserve to have a safe and productive learning environment where they are free from the distractions and disruptions from students who become physically aggressive,” said Benson.
“Our members do not want any child to miss the opportunity to learn, even those who are disruptive and need to be removed from the classroom. They do want to ensure all their students are safe and that chronically disruptive or violent students receive the help they need.”