Educators are the lifeblood of our communities. Not only do they educate our children, but they also serve as role models and support systems, pouring their hearts into our kids.
A disturbing trend of assaults against teachers is growing in Tennessee. According to a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, 10% of educators stated that they have been physically assaulted or attacked by a student.
Across the state, educators are forced to face an impossible decision: continue to follow the career they love despite an increase in school violence or walk away from teaching entirely. This should never be a choice that teachers must make.
In Tennessee, we have the Educator Bill of Rights, which protects the right of teachers to a safe classroom and the ability to report abusive behavior committed by students. The Teacher’s Discipline Act took effect on January 1, 2022, to increase classroom safety. While these bills have made significant strides in aiding our teachers against this type of behavior, we can do more.
School districts across the state are not taking the issue of teacher assault seriously, especially given the recent escalation and increase in teaching vacancies. The trend of violence against educators is worrisome not only for the teachers themselves but for the entire community.
Teachers are crucial in shaping the future of the state, and their safety and job satisfaction are imperative in maintaining a high-quality education system. Violence is not acceptable, and it must never be tolerated.
Our teachers are too valuable to lose to preventable behavior. Until school districts, boards, and administrations realize that appeasing violent students does not work, this problem will only continue to escalate.
Schools are not only for learning academics but also for acquiring life skills that extend beyond the classroom and help shape the future generation of America. That’s why it is important to address these issues promptly. Neglecting them will likely lead to problems beyond the classroom, creating a more hazardous society, not just for teachers and children, but for everyone. Students need to understand that such behavior is unacceptable and can result in severe consequences in the real world.
The Educator Bill of Rights and the Teacher's Discipline Act are positive steps towards addressing this issue. Tennessee’s teachers need people in their corner—they need immediate action. We must stand behind our teachers and ensure they have a safe work environment.
It is crucial to hold students responsible for their actions. One way to achieve this is by establishing unambiguous disciplinary procedures for students who display disruptive or violent behavior. Such measures should include appropriate consequences to deter such actions. To tackle this issue effectively, we need to ensure that violent students are held accountable, teachers have access to the necessary resources to address such behavior, and parents are informed about their children's conduct.
Establishing a secure and encouraging learning atmosphere necessitates a joint effort among teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the broader community. By utilizing various tactics and staying dedicated to the welfare of educators, Tennessee can strive towards a future where teachers can flourish, and students acquire knowledge in a safe and supportive environment.
Schools should be a safe environment for students and teachers alike. Allowing violent behavior against educators harms public education, teacher retention, and communities. Something must change. The future of Tennessee education depends on it.
Congressman Mark Green is a physician and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served three tours. He interviewed Saddam Hussein for six hours on the night of his capture. He is Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and serves on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee and a Marine Corps veteran.