A Teacher Safety Perspective on Teacher Shortages

by James C. Sherlock

We have discussed here teachers shortages in Richmond and some of the other larger school divisions in Virginia.

When the issues of teachers being physically afraid to continue teaching because of behavioral chaos in the schools is brought up, it is ignored or dismissed by the left in favor of its “mean parents” narrative.

The facts do not matter to that narrative. But they matter to nearly everyone else except, for some strange reason, the teachers’ unions. I have no explanation for that.

Let’s look at high school teachers’ (and students’) fears for their safety from student assault.

I offer in evidence 2020 Virginia School Climate Survey Division Report Grades 9 through 12 Richmond City Public Schools. It is from the immediate pre-COVID period, and is the last such survey published.

The Virginia Secondary School Climate Survey provides schools with an assessment of school climate and safety conditions from the perspective of students and teachers/staff. The purpose of this division-level report is to help identify strengths and weaknesses that can guide efforts to improve school safety and student learning.

This division-level report combines responses from 816 students and 178 teachers/staff from 9 school(s) in your division. Regional results are based on 16,948 students and 2,677 teachers/staff in 43 high schools.

You will note that it compares Richmond high schools with state averages in the Summary Results and with other divisions in Region 1 in the Student Perceptions and Teacher/Staff Perceptions sections.

Two big conclusions jump out at me.

  1. Richmond high school teachers are two standard deviations more likely than teachers statewide to report “student aggression ranging from insults and threats to physical attack.”
  2. The school climate survey results in high schools outside of Richmond but in the same Region 1 – Central Virginia are, unfortunately, comparable in many respects to those in Richmond.

Results related to #1:

  • 12% of Richmond high school teachers reported “a student physically attacked, pushed, or hit me.”
  • 37% reported “a student threatened to harm me.”

VTSS (Virginia Tiered System of Supports) for discipline was in place in Richmond in 2019-20 and had been for some time.  It was still there when the teachers finally went back to their classrooms in 2021-22.

So the timeline after this survey is that RPS teachers spent a year and a half at home (March 2020 – August 2021).  That was longer than any other school division in the state.  The only way any staff left under those conditions was on a gurney.

They came back, and the school division closed the schools in the first week of November 2021 “for the workers mental health”.  From Jason Kamras, the Superintendent:

“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard directly from dozens of teachers, principals, and support staff about how stressful this year has been,” Kamras said in a letter. “Many have shared that they’re on the brink of burning out — even leaving — and it’s only October.”

Apparently VTSS had not kicked in yet.

Move along. Nothing to see here. Teacher resignations are a “mean parents” problem.

If readers can find any good news in the 2020 Virginia School Climate Survey linked above, please point it out.

If you think the tiered system of support disciplinary policies advocated by the Board of Education may have been reconsidered in light of such surveys, you are wrong. The revisions reflected in  2021 Model Guidance for Positive, Preventive Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension

Remembering that these climate surveys were conducted before the post-COVID school chaos, this survey can be considered the best case for these high schools.

So, it is not all about “mean parents” as the leftist media suggest. When considering why teachers have quit, it appears teacher fear for their own safety should make the cut.

If the teachers’ unions cared about their members, they would be clamoring for better discipline in schools. But they are not.

I find that very strange. And inexplicable.

Updated Aug 4, 2022 at 14:30

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17 responses to “A Teacher Safety Perspective on Teacher Shortages”

  1. “If the teachers unions cared about their members, they would be clamoring for better discipline in schools. But they are not. I find that very strange. And inexplicable.”

    Strange, yes. Inexplicable, no. Teachers unions are run by ideologues. Ideologues are impervious to reality.

    1. Remember what your grandma said, “People who can’t; teach and people who can’t teach run the unions.”

  2. There’s fascinating data in that survey. This question, I thought, was particularly interesting: “The adults at this school are too strict.”

    Strongly agree: <1%
    Agree: <1%
    Somewhat agree: 5%
    Somewhat disagree: 16%
    Disagree: 37%
    Strongly disagree: 42%

    And this: “Students can get away with breaking the rules at this school pretty easily:

    Strongly agree: 13%
    Agree: 22%
    Somewhat agree: 17%
    Somewhat disagree: 13%
    Disagree: 16%
    Strongly disagree: 18%

    I suspect that the answer to that last question varies significantly from school to school.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Clearly the unquestioned benefits of VTSS had not kicked in yet.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Superintendent Hutchings last day was August 1. Much of the mess can be traced to his four years in charge. New sheriff in town has a plan. I am going to follow Alexandria this year. Curious to see if equity driven discipline yields results.

  4. Teddy007 Avatar

    Considering that conservatives now claim that we would have all been better off if the schools had never closed for Covid-19, why are those same conservatives showing any concern for school staff safety?

    I guess it fits into the same logic that shootings in Chicago are significant but mass shootings In Uvalde are not and a 15% in total deaths due to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 is just fake news.

    1. I guess it fits into the same logic that shootings in Chicago are significant but mass shootings In Uvalde are not…

      Who said that?

      1. Teddy007 Avatar

        Every time I am at the gym and in looking at Fox News or looking at the NY Post, Newsmax, Breitbart, etc. Every Monday all of the right of center media has the body count from Chicago and a discussion of how dangerous Chicago and other blue run cities in blue run states are. Of course, how many Fox News viewers or Daily Wire listeners know that Louisiana has a higher murder rate than Illinois? That would be none.

        1. You did not answer my question.

          Who said the mass shooting in Uvalde was not significant?

          And what does Louisiana have to do with Uvalde or Chicago, which were the two localities you mentioned prior to changing the subject?

          1. Teddy007 Avatar

            Every right of center writer has stated openly that nothing can really be done to lower the number or extent of mass shootings in the U.S. In other words, the 2nd amendment trumps all arguments and having a homicide rate much higher than Europe and having mass shootings is just the price to pay for having a 2nd Amendment right.

          2. Every right of center writer has stated openly that nothing can really be done to lower the number of extend of mass shootings in the U.S.

            No, they have not.

            And you STILL have not answered my question.

          3. Teddy007 Avatar

            using a phrase by thugs is passive voice. Something has to be done about violence in schools. The question is whether schools are willing to fail or expel a large number of students when most of those students will be black or brown and virtually all will be male?
            Dancing around the issue by talking about teacher safety or hiding behind the idea that 140 lb teacher can physically defend themselves from 18 y/o males does not answer the question.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Flawless logic.

      1. Teddy007 Avatar

        The people claiming to be concerned about teacher safety are not really that concerned with teacher safety. What most of those expressing concern care about if being able to expel troublemakers and delinquents while not talking about troublemakers or delinquents. So the advocates use a passive voice approach to talk about teacher shortage due to the lack of safety. Of course, the same people who are not concerned about teacher safety were quite willing to threaten the teachers jobs if they did not agree to work in a full school with no social distancing, no masking, and no immunizations back in 2020.

        1. Somehow private schools in the U.S., and even some public schools in the U.S., and even public schools in Europe and other countries figured out how to keep schools open without endangering teacher safety. Only U.S. public schools in “progressive” public school districts seemed uniquely incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            Don’t confuse the issue with facts. Many private schools opened far sooner than their public counterparts. Did private school students and teachers die in droves? Of course not.

        2. To improve teacher safety, teachers should be permitted, and even encouraged, to actively defend themselves against physical attacks by thugs in the schools using whatever means they deem necessary.

          Please point out the parts of my comment which were in the ‘passive voice’.

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