Survey Reveals Two-Thirds of Georgia Teachers Experience School Violence and Fear

According to a survey conducted by Channel 2 Action News, a significant number of teachers have contemplated leaving their jobs due to concerns about their safety in the classroom.

We conducted a survey of almost 1,000 participants here in Georgia and over 8,000 participants nationwide.

According to the survey, a significant number of teachers have reported experiencing violent attacks by students. In fact, two-thirds of respondents revealed that they had been a victim of such attacks. These findings provide a statistically reliable insight into the challenges faced by teachers in their classrooms.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray recently had conversations with teachers from across the state, providing them with a platform to express their opinions anonymously.

In 2023, Tiwana Turner, an English teacher at Heritage High School in Rockdale County, was attacked by a student, and we managed to capture the incident on a cell phone camera.

According to Turner, the video of her outburst went viral, with a staggering 65 million views.

But violence is not limited to viral videos or headline-grabbing gun violence, according to Georgia teachers. It is a frequent occurrence in their profession.

“We often find ourselves lacking protection and support in our endeavors. It can be quite challenging,” expressed Turner.

Channel 2 Action News was curious to learn more about the challenges teachers are currently facing. As a result, we decided to reach out and ask them directly.

“I must admit, I feel scared every single day,” revealed a metro teacher who preferred to keep their identity hidden.

In a recent survey, it was discovered that 61% of teachers in Georgia have contemplated leaving their profession or retiring due to the prevalence of violence against educators.

In addition to surveying teachers in Georgia, we also reached out to over 8,000 educators in 34 other states. The results were strikingly similar, with 63% of teachers expressing their intention to leave the profession due to concerns about safety.

After teaching at a high school in DeKalb County for thirty years, one of the teachers who participated in our survey shared her experience. For privacy reasons, she preferred to remain anonymous.

The DeKalb teacher expressed her daily struggle, pondering whether it’s time to retire.

Out of nowhere, a student struck her in the face with a metal object last winter.

“I didn’t utter a word. I didn’t even acknowledge the student. I was simply savoring the Christmas music, standing in the hall alongside a colleague. Little did I know that on that day, when I stepped into work, I would be struck on the head,” recalled the DeKalb Teacher.

Amber Strickland, a dedicated educator, devoted over two decades to teaching elementary school in Harrelson County. Unfortunately, her career took a distressing turn when she became the victim of an assault by a fourth-grade student wielding a reusable water bottle.

According to our survey, a significant 66% of Georgia teachers admitted to personally encountering physical violence from a student on at least one occasion.

Turner underwent a significant leg injury that necessitated surgical intervention and an extensive rehabilitation period.

Turner described the experience as traumatizing, saying, “She was out for blood.” The incident left him unable to perform basic tasks such as showering alone and even required someone to help him with feeding. He had to rely on home health care during this difficult time.

Turner says that even though her physical injuries were beginning to heal, she found herself unable to return to the classroom and continue doing the job she was passionate about.

Turner admitted that he was not mentally prepared to set foot in a school at that time.

According to a report by Channel 2 Action News, Turner isn’t the only one feeling this way. Approximately 54% of teachers in Georgia admitted to sometimes being afraid to go to school.

“I am constantly vigilant, always looking over my shoulder,” a teacher expressed.

Strickland mentioned that for the remainder of the school year, the student was present in her classroom on a daily basis.

Turner expressed that she had shed so many tears that she believed she had exhausted her supply.

We presented the findings of our 17-question survey to Marietta Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera.

According to Rivera, every school district can benefit from reflecting on the valuable information.

During a conversation with Gray, Rivera shared that in his district, they have quarterly listening sessions with every staff member. He expressed his deep concern when he heard a significant number of teachers express their contemplation of leaving the profession.

According to Rivera, it is crucial for school systems to examine the underlying reasons behind such emotions and take proactive measures to address them. Waiting until after the fact is not an option, as by that time, the individual may have already left the teaching profession and abandoned the classroom.

After enduring a violent attack a year and a half ago, Turner is now preparing to resume her teaching career in a different school and district. She expressed her gratitude for the support she has received from school administrators, which has given her the confidence to move forward.

Gray reminded Turner that she still gets excited when she thinks about her students.

“I can empathize with the feeling of missing my students,” Turner expressed.

Major school districts report zero incidents

State data reveals that certain prominent metro Atlanta school districts are claiming zero instances of violence against teachers, even in the face of well-known attacks within their schools.

Turner was employed in Rockdale County when she was attacked. However, according to the state Department of Education records for Rockdale County in 2023, the district did not report any incidents under the violence against teacher category for that year.

Rockdale County is not the only place experiencing these issues.

Atlanta Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the state, has consistently reported zero cases every year since the state began tracking this category in 2019.

According to Turner, the creation of the category was clearly intended to address and monitor the issue at hand. However, if the incidents are not reported, it becomes difficult to assess the extent of the problem.

According to Turner, the situation appears to be problem-free, but in reality, it is a significant issue that needs immediate attention. He emphasized the severity of the problem by repeating that it is indeed a big problem.

Since 2020, Fulton County schools have reported no incidents.

In the 22/23 school year, Gwinnett County schools had 49 incidents of violence against teachers, while Cobb County reported 34 incidents and Clayton reported 151 incidents.

According to Dr. Susan McMahon, who spearheaded a task force on violence against teachers for the American Psychological Association, it is crucial to track the issues surrounding this problem in order to effectively address them.

According to McMahon, the collection of data in Georgia is crucial, as it is an initiative that many other states have not yet undertaken.

According to McMahon, it becomes more challenging to devise effective solutions if we fail to track any data.

Both the Rockdale and Fulton school districts have stated that they categorize these instances of teacher attacks under other categories involving violent incidents against staff members.

Atlanta Public Schools provided a statement to Channel 2 Action News, stating:

At Atlanta Public Schools, we prioritize the safety and well-being of our students and employees above all else. We also value transparency and accuracy when it comes to reporting data to all stakeholders. In line with this commitment, we have included all instances of battery, including those involving teachers, in the designated “battery” column of the Georgia Department of Education Student Discipline Incident Report.

The State Department of Education emphasized the importance of identifying the victims in order to effectively address the issue at hand. According to them, accurately tracking and documenting these incidents allows for a better understanding of the challenges faced by educators. By doing so, targeted strategies can be implemented to create a safer educational environment for everyone involved.

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