The aim of this qualitative study is to gain a deeper understanding of teacher-directed violence and the impact it has on teachers’ ability to function effectively in the classroom. Violence in schools is not a phenomenon that operates in a vacuum. It has become a cause of great concern for educational leaders, the effects can be far-reaching, and the reasons for this growing problem linked to circumstances outside the school environment (Mora & Ponca, 2017). A review of historical literature on violence in schools, to include more specifically violence against teachers, is needed in order to gain insight into the nature of the problem and how it affects those that experienced it. Additionally, a review of more current literature is necessary to get further in-depth understanding of the extent of the problem and the impact that students’ violent behaviors could have on teacher effectiveness in a more, in a more present-day context.
The literature review of chapter 2 gives a broader view of the discussion of chapter 1 as the data that is gathered on the topic will present various perspective of the problem and its impact. Bangert-Drowns (2005) stated that a literature review may serve multiple purpose, and the process requires diligence in order to arrive at new knowledge. Through critical analysis and synthesis, the literature review can help to establish strengths and weaknesses and help to create a balance and transparent view of the evidence that is presented.
Attempting to answer the question of the impact that students’ violent behavior may have on teachers’ ability to perform effectively in classroom will require extensive research. The various pieces of information for the literature review will be obtained from multiple sources. Key words and phrases such as: violence in school, teacher-directed violence, teacher victimization, teacher performance, and impact of school violence will be used to initiate the searches. This literature information will be obtained from peer-reviewed articles, journals, books, other valid sources. The sites that will be used to gain the literature will include: Proquest, Proquest Education, Sage knowledge, Sage Journal, Ebsco, ERIC and Google Scholar.
Historical Overview of Violence in Schools
Violence in schools have long since become a problem for educational leaders, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. Behaviors from as simple as talking back to murder is on the rise, and educational and political leaders are working feverishly to find a solution (Violence in schools: Issues, consequences, and expressions, 2005). Ozdemir (2012) agreed that violence in schools is a huge concern, and the severity of the problem is escalating. Ozdemir further explained that in the early 20th century, the biggest student behavior that concerned educators included chewing gum, talking back, and running in the hallways. Comparing to what is happening in schools today, one might describe those behaviors as insignificant.
Today, if a “baby boomer” is asked to recall a devastating act of violence in schools, one might recall the incident at a high school in Columbine, Colorado. On the morning of April 20, 1999, 2 students of Columbine high school entered the school and shot and killed 13 people, injuring 24 others. At that time, it was the deadliest school committed by a student in United States history (Stone & Isaac, 2003). However, over four decades before the Columbine incident was described as the worst incident of school violence in United States history, another incident was described in a similar manner. On December 1, 1958, a student from Lady of Angel Elementary school set the school on fire, killing 92 students and teachers (Brendtro, 2005). Both of these incidents not only indicate the severity and longevity of the problem, but they also help to pinpoint that violence in school can take place at multiple levels of education.
In the decade that followed, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, violence from communities spilled into schools. According to Laminack and Bell (2005) the historic case of Brown vs. The Board of Education and the efforts to integrate schools, many acts of violence took place in schools. A great example of violence in schools during the 1960’s can be seen in the experience of Ruby Bridges. Brewer and Juchniewicz (2004) described this incident as very frightening for a young six-year-old girl. In 1960, Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz elementary school in Louisiana. Escorted by federal marshals, Bridges attended school every day amid threats and vicious slurs being hurled at her outside the school. She was even spat at and intimidated by gestures and frightening images of black dolls (Brewer & Juchniewicz, 2004).
In the next twenty years, the issue of school violence continued to plague the nation’s educational system. A report completed by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) detailed the issue of school violence in the 1970s and 1980s. In the report there was a strong correlation between crime in the community and disciplinary problems in the schools. Simultaneously, the rise in youth crime and drug use in the communities also saw a spike of similar behaviors in schools across the United States. In 1975 and 1978 reports from the Depart of Justice (DOJ) revealed that violence and disciplinary occurrences were on the rise in schools across the United States, which sparked a new call for legislative actions that are aimed at prevention.
With the demand from stakeholders for the implementation of preventative measures to quell the prevalence of negative student behaviors, the 1990’s saw a decrease in violent behavior in schools. This may have been due in part to legislatures like the Gun-Free School Act of 1992 and the Safe Schools Act of 1994 (NCJRS, 2017). These two legislative actions called for stricter measures to prevent students from possessing or using guns in schools. By the late 1990s, schools, when compared to the early 1990s, were considered safer. By 1999, the percentage of victims of school violence decreased from 10% to 8% (NCJRS, 2017). This pattern continued into the next decade. According to a report completed by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in 2013, the total rate of students who were victims of violence in schools declined 70% when compared to 1992 (NIJ, 2014).
Although there is data to support that violence in the nation’s schools was declining, there was still cause for great concern. While the frequency of violence was decreasing, the scope and severity of the problem was still capturing the attention of educational leaders and other stakeholders. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary is a reminder of the extent of the situation and why the need to find answers should be on-going. This incident took place on December 14, 2012, in which 26 people, 20 children and six adults, were killed on school grounds (Donohue, Goodman-Scott, & Betters-Bubon, 2015). It was described at that time as the deadliest violent incident in the history of the United States, to take place on school grounds. This took place before the NIJ 2013 report that there was a decline in violent incidence in schools. Based on a study conducted by Zhang and Johnson (2005) in Mississippi high schools, the findings agreed with the NIJ 2013 report that there was a decrease in violent behaviors in schools. Zhang and Johnson pointed out however, that the decrease was not among all violent acts. There was a decrease, about 0.001 %, in acts such as physical fights, carrying a weapon, or verbal threats. However, negative behaviors such as threats or injuries with a weapon on school grounds did not show a decrease. Zhang and Johnson further pointed out that there seem to be a lack of reporting of incidents in schools. The lack of consistency in the findings on this issue points to the need for more research to be done on the topic. Data that is credible could help to point to educational and legislative leaders to properly understand and solution of the problem. Since violence in school is a global issue, additional research could also be a resource for understanding the problem on a global scale. According to Debarbieux (2003) with the exception of the United States, where data is collected through the Safe School Study and the National Crime Victimization Survey, no other country has consistently collected data on school violence. Of even a greater need, is reliable research on a global scale. Historically, research on the school violence has been rare, unreliable, and inconsistent (Debarbieux, 2003), and the need for such data is evident.
Violence is schools have been prevalent for many decades, and during this time, most of the attention has been focused on peer related violence and its impact on students (Ozkilic, 2014). However, Ozkilic noted that violence against teachers has gain prevalence since the 1990s, and its impact does not only affect students but teachers as well (Buckner & Flanary, 1996). On a daily basis, teachers experienced negative behaviors such as verbal threats, intimidations, physical or even sexual violence (Wilson, Douglas, & Lyon, 2011). From a global perspective, the United States does not have the highest percentage of teacher-directed violence (Bon, Faircloth, & LeTendre, 2006), but the level of occurrence is enough to warrant investigation. In the 1999-2000 school year, it was reported that: a) 19% of public school teachers reported that they were disrespected by their students on a daily or weekly basis; b) 13% of public school teachers reported that they were verbally abused by their students on a daily or weekly basis; c) 3% of public school teachers reported that there was widespread disorder in their classroom by their students on a daily or weekly basis (Bon, Faircloth, & LeTendre, 2006). This evidence indicates the extent of victimization that teachers endure, and the less than conducive environment in which they are expected to perform effectively. The persistence of the problem could cause well-experienced teachers to leave the classroom (Buckner, & Flanary, 1996).
In the 2003-2004 school year School Crime and Safety report, the data showed that between 5% and 10% of teachers reported that students threatened them with injury or physical attack (NCES, 2006). In the same year, Bucher and Manning (2005) reported that results from a U.S. Department of Justice and education showed that student violence had decline by 50% within the last decade. While this decline may seem like an improvement in the environment in which teachers have to perform, Buchner and Manning cautioned that the results may not be reliable. School leaders sometimes under-report incidents of student violence, including violent acts toward teachers in an effort to improve the annual report of the school, which the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 stipulated must be produced for each public school. This may further compound the problem as students’ violent behaviors are not being identified and addressed by school leaders.
Students’ violent behaviors toward teachers have taken place in schools of all levels and in all locations, nationally and internationally, and have the potential to negatively impact teachers and their ability to do their job effectively. Ozdemir (2012) outlined the results from various study form countries around the world. In a study that was conducted in 1999, 16% of teachers in public schools in the United states reported that they were the victims of teacher-directed violence; In Israel, between 1995 and 1999, student violence directed at teachers increased four times; In 2002-2003, a report from the Scottish Executive Education Department showed that 6,899 teachers reported being victims of student violence; In Slovakia, a study conducted in 2007 revealed that of the 364 participants, 35% experienced verbal abuse; 17% experienced emotional abuse; 12% experienced damage to property; 5% experienced physical attacks. In Taiwan, a 2009 study that involved students from grades four to twelve revealed that: 30% of students admitted to carry out at least one act of violence against their teacher; 28% opposed teachers directions; 7% cursed or verbally abuse their teacher; 6% mocked or play harmful pranks; 1% admitted to beating or kicking a teacher; 1% threatened or humiliated their teacher; 0.6% blackmailed their teacher; In the Czech Republic, in a 2008 study conducted with 366 teachers, results revealed that teachers experienced verbal abuse and insults, damage to property, threat of physical harm, and threat of using powerful connections against teachers. This problem has global implication not only for the education system but for the societal system as well. The level of violence demonstrated by students towards the authority figure in the schools might suggests that the teaching-learning experiences are being impacted. Teachers may have a difficult time implementing instructional content to students. This could impact teachers’ effectiveness and may even motivate them to quit their jobs or the profession (Ozdemir, 2012). On a deeper level, the effectiveness of a society and how well it functions is largely as a result of the effectiveness of instruction that takes place in the education system. An education system in which effective instruction is being negatively affected could in return negatively affect the society.
Ozkilic (2014) also agreed that the nature of the problem has taken on international prevalence. Reports from the United Kingdom suggested that educational leaders are concerned about the level of violence directed towards teachers by students. In a study conducted in 1998, 91% of teacher revealed that they were bullied by their students. Bullying of teachers is considered to be a social problem in New Zealand even though the percentage is not as high as mentioned in other countries. While only 28% of teachers there reported violent acts aimed at them by their students in 2004, it was large enough to be considered a concern. Similarly, in 2004, South African teachers reported that they have been bullied by their students. Of the 544 teachers who participated in a study, 79.9% stated that they were victims of bullying by students (Ozkilic, 2014). Ozkilic further suggested that it will take a concerted effort to handle the issue of bullying of teachers.
Educators, administrators, policy makers, parents, and students should work together to find solution to the issue. However, of all the stakeholders, teachers are in the position to affect the greatest change on students’ behavior while in school. Teachers are the ones who interact with students the most within the educational setting and can have the greatest impact on students’ behavior (Aldridge, McChesney, & Afari, 2018). It is therefore important that effective teachers are motivated to remain in the classroom. .