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Teachers Attacked


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. ...”


A teacher is attacked so viciously that he is brain-damaged, and yet the public still insists that all problems in education are due to lack of highly qualified teachers and failure to test enough. This situation continues a vicious cycle--failure to remove disruptive students from the classroom ("all students have a right to an education") which results in frustrated teachers, turnover, less qualified teachers, poor education, more frustrated and hopeless students, more disruptive behavior, more teachers leaving, etc. While we're forcing schools and teachers to improve, let's also make changes in how we deal with disruptive students *before* they cause major problems.

I am sorry to read about these attacks. It is a shame. I have been teaching now for 10 years and have seen a change from my early years compared to today. In our case I believe more should be done to counsel emotionally disturbed students at this level. We have children in our classes that are on are the edge emotionally, whether it be from being passed along by lack of Identification of a learning disability or they are just simply emotionally disturbed. There have been cases recently where I actually had a bipolar/manic student in my class doing the strangest things disrupting class by virtue of being manic but when I tried to get help for the boy as his mother was trying at her end our school argued over the word"entitled" They denied him services and he had been suspended a number of times doing bizarre things when he was manic. These are the kids that have the invisable disabilities that we as teachers do not recognise. When we try to help for these kids we get into trouble. These are the kids most apt to strike another child/ or bully one. These children are most apt to hit a teacher. There should be an alternative learning area for all kids in all schools. These kids that are emotionally disturbed cannot be taught in the regular ed classroom when the are explosive. They should be in an alternative location until they are not dangerous anymore. As teachers we should be able to approach any child that is breaking the school rule ie:cell phone/IPod without fearing for our lives. Also the neurotypical children have the right to be educated in classrooms where the teacher can teach without real oddball interuptions. Allowing a culture of fear to be allowed in schools and classrooms is bad and against the civil rights of every student and child in the school. There are laws that define this....Why cannot we just follow the law and give all children and teachers a safe environemnet to learn in and that is condusive to peacefullness and not let the violent, bullies control the schools? Thank you and again I am sorry to hear about the 2 teacher sthat were hurt by the bullies. Last June a former student of mine committ suicide because of the bullying he faced everday on the bus and in school. I am very haunted byt his...He had an invisable disability on top of that Asperger Syndrome whre no one would know that he internalized the pain until he could not take it anymore. Bye and good luck.....

I am not shocked that the teachers were attacked. I work in a big city district in Los angeles. Teachers have been attacked and the principal blames the teacher for not having control of the class. This year I have had my doorknob spit on repeatedly. I had a class of children who did everything they could to disrupt every day. I was criticized for being too strict by one administrator. Yet my strictness meant 8 out of 9 of the 8th graders in my ESL Advanced class passed the class and went on to culmination(receiving a diploma) and will pass out of the ESL program into regular SDAIE English classes next year.

Every teacher at my school wishes for a room on campus where these disruptive kids can be sent. I don't think that this is what "full inclusion" was supposed to mean. Why are the needs of the many being disregarded for the needs of one or two? Many new teachers quit because of the blase attitude toward discipline and then we get someone like Admiral Brewer as superintendent of LAUSD who knows nothing about education. He wants us to have no more suspensions. But what are the rights of the students who want to learn and are being prevented from doing so?

I hope Mr. Klein and Mr Burd have recovered both physically and in terms of their psyche. I feel these are examples of where teacher training fails to adequately provide us with the skills necessary to discern when situations can turn violent. Unfortunately, we seem to be learning from hard earned experiences and these lessons are not being passed on in terms of teacher training. In law enforcement they have officer survival courses in which deadly or violent situations are reviewed and strategies are developed to counter the situations. We as teachers hear only about attacks, we are never given a chance to review, reflect and develop appropriate skills to deal with these incidents

I wish Mr. Klein and Mr. Burd a speedy recovery in their physical and emotional wounds. I would suggest to any teacher that is touched in that way to sue the parents and the students. It is NOT acceptable to physically assault another person, especially a teacher. These teachers such as Mr. Klein and Mr. Burd are only trying to establish order in the classroom. If the school and the parents are "ignoring" the fact that these students need some extra help due to mental and/or emotional issues, then I wish to say it is not the teacher's fault.

I am surprised that students could do that to a teacher. They must have no respect or have some emotional or mental issues. Therefore they should be given the help they are needed and/or should be prosecuted and put into jail/detention hail. I am sorry to say that because I do believe that all students can learn. However if students want to resort to violence and the school and community only suspends the student, what type of message is that sending? What if these students had done it to a police officer or someone on the street? I am sure criminal charges would have been filed.

I don't believe it is lack of teacher training. It is not possible to recognize that a student will become explosive by being asked to turn down their Ipod, regardless of teacher training.

It is lack of discipline in the home, children who have not been taught to respect.

It is inclusion to the exclusion of common sense.

It is children not being held accountable for their actions. Yes, the child and parents should be sued. Send a message that it is not okay to be a bully to peers or to authority.

Yes, every child can learn...but what do they learn. Remember we get them after their first 5 years, when many of their values have already been formed(learned). We have them for 6-7 hours, but there are another 8-10 when they are not sleeping and subject to the reality of their environment. I witnessed a mother and older sibling repeated slapping a degrading a toddler by calling him names and telling him to "shut-up" because he was tired of being trapped in the shopping cart while his mother was waiting for help in the layaway department. Now..the older sibling and soon this toddler will come to school and be expected to share, play nice, not hit or call names...yeah right. How would any teacher know how traumatized these children are/will be by what is "their normal" life. No teacher could expect that a student, after being asked to turn down an iPod would react in such an unreasonable manner, but what has this student faced in his life. He may be so damaged that he does not know what "normal" is. He may become a statistic of the courts and wind up in jail then prison where he will get no help with his mental health issues. There is no easy solution. But there has been a lot of research on successful urban or high violence schools. The research points to providing kids connections to adult mentors and meaningful educational experiences. It also gives creedence to training teachers in how to work with difficult kids and giving the resources that they need to be teachers not social workers or guards. Maybe if we spend the $30,000+ it takes to keep 1 person in prison for a year and allocated more of that $$ to quality preschool, mental health and family support, we would make a difference in the life of a child.


I have been reading comments made by teachers, but I have a question to all of you who responded to this- well report. What was the relationship of the teacher to the students? How was the relationship started? Given that the possibility existed of an ethnic difference- was trust developed between the class which I am thinking had a higher percentage of african american students?
Before one could start talking about who needs counciling, or jail- I am yet to understand what would cause any child for that matter to become that violent as the story seems to be putting it. There had to be a series of interactions for a student to become that violent, whether directly or indirectly.
As a teacher my self for just 5 years- children are impressionalble- with that in mind an adults body actions says alot. So could we consider relationship building before throwing in the towel to the counsellors of the jailor- thank you. Remeber you we put there to develop a human being like yourself(Mad Kids!!)

I am surprised and encourage by the number of thoughtful comments that include the possibility that schools can do something differently to decrease the violence in schools.

As a parent of a student with an emotional disability, I must respond, however, to those who want "another place" to sent students. Sad to say, it has been my experience that when these other places are implemented in the absence of more comprehensive measure aimed at establishing and teaching behavioral expectations for all students, it is too easy to allow a child with special needs to escalate (or maybe even to exacerbate the escalation) in order to "get them out."

I have seen my share of those "other places," and for the most part, I am unimpressed by the methods. What I can say about them is that they are frequently staffed by people who care about excluded kids and because they are "end of the line," solutions are more frequently sought and implemented. There is very little magic there. Not much extra special training. Two of the best I have known in my son's experience were degreed not in special education, but in physical education and recreation. One was a woman in a wheel chair--which I found delightful because the assumption was always that students with emotional/behavioral issues needed large male authority figures to control them.

What these people brought were knowledge of how to incorporate physical learning into the classroom, and how to break learning down into component parts in order to develop strategies for overcoming barriers. The things that they did could (and should) be done in any classroom. What I have found to be lacking, over and over again, however, is the support for teachers in regular classrooms to be able to think through and implement some more individualized solutions. Neither the time, nor the people resources are typically available. Special education has a large gap between the room down the hall (where needs are greater and more varied, despite the smaller class size), and the mainstream class (without supports). The continuum seldom includes a well-supported classroom inclusion option.

Checking on the web, the Philadelphia newspapers did an interesting series on the kid who assaulted Frank Burd. Actually it was a bit other than an assault. Mr. Burd was either tripped or was pushed into the kid, who was loitering in the hallway--where he has spent much of his public school time for many years. He was not the kid that the iPod was removed from.

The kid has had school problems and life problems from day 1. Born under the influence of cocaine to a large and multi-dysfunctional family. Older male sibling who cared for him was shot before kindergarten--followed by another shooting the same year. Kid arrived at school angry and lacking appropriate supports and outlets. School responded with a geographic cure--used up 3 different kindergarten classes by end of school year. End of problem solving efforts.

Transferred to a charter, which booted him back to the public schools (in a different building, of course)--where a special ed diagnosis was considered to be unavailable before 3rd grade. High absense rate and family moved a lot. Kid didn't learn much. In middle school a stroke of luck--he was diagnosed and sent to a special school that included intensive counseling on a daily basis along with intense educational support. Absence problems declined, learning advanced.

Come high school, he was sent to Mr. Burd's school, where he was lost, got into trouble, wandered the halls, etc. Services that were supposed to be provided weren't. Three months prior to the attack on Mr. Burd, he was referred back to the special school, with the father's sign-off. End of story. Referral was never completed due to an out of date IEP, that during that 3 months was never rewritten.

That is how he happened to be available as a target when the other kid either tripped or pushed Mr. Burd into him--and he hit back, three times. He has now accepted responsibility in a court of law. The judicial system will now be responsible for providing his education and supplemental services.

Think they can do better? Sorry to say, they are likely to do worse.

i think weed is the answer!!!!!

The main problem is discipline;due to the rules imposed, teaches have no authority left and the students know that (there is no consequences). Often parents are the problem, if teachers call them, they just get insulted... I know, I work in the field.

My wife is a 4th grade teacher with about 28 students in her classroom, with two students that are emotionally disturbed. One of them, when he was supposed to be seated, put his jacket over his head, and ran into my wife, knocking her into a table, knocking stuff off the table and off the blackboard, and with my wife landing bruised in her back on the floor. Did he do it on purpose? We don't know. The three teachers of emotionally disturbed students do not want to take him in their class, because they already have their quota of 6 students--two emotionally disturbed students each. And my wife has 2 in a full classroom. The principal fully supports my wife, who is highly respected by students, parents, teachers, and administrators for her classroom learning and environment. She came home crying, saying she thinks it was an accident--he had his jacket over his head, running full speed into her. I am not so sure. Later he said to his friend, "I hope I do not get grounded this weekend, just because I knocked Mrs. Anderson down." Meanwhile our plans for the weekend were dropped, because my wife was in too much pain. It is now Monday, and off the school she goes.

I was sexually assaulted this school year by a a student; the student received 3 days of suspension and I was told that "teenage boys are just impulsive, that is all." I did nothing wrong, and I dare anyone to tell me that this was my fault. Something needs to be done about these violent individuals.

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