Reports of assaults against teachers seem to growing, particularly in big city schools. Sometimes they are verbal. Sometimes they are violent physical attacks. NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross speaks with two veteran teachers, Ed Klein and Frank Burd, who were physically assaulted last year in their Philadelphia classrooms. Both Burd and Klein are white and taught at predominantly African American schools; however, neither perceived the incidents to be entirely racially motivated.
Music teacher Klein was relocated to a school one month into the school year when his former school dropped their music program. Entering a new school, with a class that was busy testing the limits and a staff that was overwhelmed, Klein struggled to get control of his classroom. Klein called parents frequently and, for the most part, they were responsive. He even saw changes in student behavior in a few cases. One day, however, a student told him he’d better stop calling home or he’d be sorry. Following that exchange, Klein was sprayed with a fire extinguisher on two consecutive days. On the third day, four students forced him to the floor where he suffered a broken jaw and a concussion.
For his part, after he approached a student to turn down his iPod during class, veteran math teacher Burd remembers little of his attack. Five broken bones and a brain injury later, Burd says, “I don’t feel betrayed by the students, I feel betrayed by the kid who did it.’
Will either teacher return to the classroom? Klein admits to good days and bad days, but is not sure if he will ever teach again. “I’m in a difficult position,” he told Gross. Said Burd, “I need to work. I like to work and I like teaching. I don’t know right now about the classroom. ...”