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Student to teacher victimisation

Safety and security are similar when managing foreseeable risks. Security risk management (SRM) is concerned with mitigation of such aspects as terrorism, security of the premises and workplace violence. Considering historic and recent reports of weapons use, drugs and violence in schools this article will centre around teacher safety focusing on student to teacher victimisation (STV). By Daniel Pike, MSc, Msyl.

Addressing the phenomena of STV this article will explore what security and safety risks teachers face within a school, the impacts these security and safety risks possess and what is being done to address them. Considering SRM it could be suggested that STV also falls under this remit, where by the teacher is victimised through many forms such as, violence physical attack, threatening email, cyber bullying, bullying and harassment; thus suggesting STV mitigating procedures could be put in place to reduce risks in both fields.

Aggression shown towards teachers by students is a historic international phenomenon with reports of student violence being traced back to 2000BC, where aggression has gone to the extent of school murders. Over the last several decades, school violence and victimisation has been highlighted as a serious problem.

Previous studies have highlighted that teaching is a highly stressful occupation were STV has played its role in contributing to this. STV can bring emotional, physical and psychological effects on teachers and as a result can lead to difficulties within a classroom, reduced job satisfaction and teachers burn out. Studies have also revealed that exposure to violence in work is linked to teacher sleep disturbance which can last up to two years after an event, due to a heightened state of physiological and psychological alertness. A further contribution to effects of STV is when a teacher suffers post-traumatic stress due to a lack of trust of a supervisor’s ability to deal with an incident or the poor injustice towards violence in work.

Looking at STV from a broader spectrum, UK schools must legally comply with the Health and Safety Act 1974 and the Human Rights Act 1998. It could be suggested that certain types of STV incidents could result in a breach of either Act i.e., workplace victimisation such as harassment and bullying. When a stake holder within the school, such as a teacher is victimised this can cause serious implications and contribute to an unsafe working environment which can affect numerous stakeholders. An example of this is teacher victimisation causing financial problems and obstructing a teacher from enjoying their basic right to enjoy work, which in turn can affect the way the teacher carries out their responsibilities; thus affecting quality of teaching.

A study in the UK by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) revealed 76pc of respondents had been bullied by superiors, 25pc bullied by students and 23pc by parents or guardians. The ATL also revealed that many teachers were targets of online abuse from their students. Another study in 2012 by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASWUT) reported that teachers were subject to racist and sexist remarks, including having their pictures shown online.

There are ways in which STV is being addressed in the UK, were teachers can join unions such as the National educational union. In turn the unions can provide legal help to teachers and assist with situations such as teacher allegations, bullying, school issues and sorting out differences between senior management; which could imply that unions can help with STV.
The USA uses school resource officers (SROs) to respond to incidents of school threats and violence within schools. As well as being law enforcers the SRO can act as an educator by training students and staff on how to; respond to emergency situations, conflict resolution and substance misuse etc. They can act as a councillor by building relationships with students, staff and parents.

The use of SROs within a school has come under scrutiny due to harsh with news cycles revealing an SROs heavy-handed treatment towards students; which has been captured on mobile phones by bystanders. Previous studies have also highlighted that the use of police officers as SROs can unnecessarily lead to a student being arrested where the incident could have been better handled by the school. This has created a phenomenon called school to prison pipeline where students arrested are associated with being entangled in the justice system later in life.

Some states in the USA have taken the approach of prison sentences and fines for students who assault teachers. In Texas assaulting a teacher can be classed as assaulting a public servant this can be classed as a third-degree felony, which can lead to sentencing of anywhere between two and ten years and a $10,000 fine. Some states use a mandatory expulsion programme where a student is removed from the class and placed in a disciplined alternative education programme.

CCTV can be beneficial in deterring students from violent behaviour and vandalism. One reason for the use of CCTV in schools is to collect evidence but also protect all parties from false allegation, to which CCTV is seen as one way of managing risk. Yet the use of CCTV does bring to light its own problems such as senior management using CCTV in a negative way towards teachers and observing teacher performance. Another type surveillance in schools, is using a method called leaner walks, this involves a member of senior management randomly entering classrooms and standing quietly at the back and observing lessons, which can help schools spot cause for concerns.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is England’s regulator for education and holds educational settings such as schools accountable for bullying. If a school is known for bullying and it is not managed correctly, then Ofsted can mark the school as “inadequate” during an inspection. As a result, this would mean the school could be subject to intervention; to a point where the secretary of state for education could ‘rebroker’ the school to be managed by another academic trust.

There are a variety of issues regarding victimisation that teachers face from physical issues such as physical attack and property offences, to cyber bullying. It must therefore be asserted that it is important to recognise the risk factors to mitigate the phenomenon. This article has focused on a teachers point of view, however there are other considerations to take into account such as points of views from school administrators, students, parents and governors. It could be suggested that further research could be carried out to see how these stake holders are affected by school incidents and to what extent the problem presents itself; with a focus on what options they consider suitable, if any, to alleviate and address incidents.

Considering the lack of resource for policing and concerns with the school to prison pipeline, the use of a school resource officer in the UK through the use of security officers could present grounds for further research; and whether it would be beneficial to have an authoritative figure for school stake holders to report to.


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