As if teachers don’t already have enough to contend with beside teaching their subject matter, they are increasingly worried about their own physical safety (“Student faces sentencing in attempted sex assault on teacher,” The New York Post, Mar. 14). I’m not talking about outsiders. According to federal data, 5.8 percent of the nation’s 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student in the 2015-16 school year. Almost 10 percent were threatened with injury. Yet more is written about students’ rights.
How did things get so bad? I trace the root of the problem to the student rights revolution of the 1960s. Prior to that time, teachers acted in loco parentis. But in 1965, lawyers began suing schools for disciplining students in a move backed by the federal government and philanthropic behemoths. In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Goss v. Lopez that students had the right to due-process protections for even the most minor aspects of school discipline. Not surprisingly, schools began to walk on eggs when student misbehavior was involved.
We are reaping the results. When I was in public school, teachers were always respected, even if they were not especially liked. That meant following instructions and never talking back. Assaulting a teacher was unheard of. The criticism aimed at discipline policies is that they allegedly create a school-to-prison pipeline, particularly for black students who are suspended or expelled at higher rates than white students. But white students are disciplined at higher rates than Asian students. Does that mean schools are anti-white?
I believe that without decorum, learning is almost impossible. That goes for students of all races. When teachers fear for their own safety, they can’t possibly do their job. Even if they recover from physical injuries, they are psychologically damaged. According to the American Psychological Association, the nationwide costs of victimization of teachers exceeds $2 billion annually, which is why disruptive students must be immediately removed from classrooms without fear of a lawsuit.
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