Education Opinion

Open Season on Teachers by Students

By Walt Gardner — March 02, 2016 1 min read
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What job requires an employee to accept verbal abuse and physical assault? If you said law enforcement, you’d be wrong. It’s teaching (“Teacher files lawsuit, saying 13-year-old student beat, bullied her,” kdvr.com, Feb. 25).

The facts of the case are hard to believe. A Colorado teacher was subjected to a series of attacks by a 13-year-old boy with autism beginning in the 2014-15 school year. When the teacher reported the incidents a dozen times to school officials, she was told not to document them or call the police. Only when the student broke the teacher’s thumb and police responded did the district finally take action by - of all things - firing her.

I realize that the boy in question was autistic. But that does not give him immunity. Federal law makes it extremely difficult to expel special- education students. It also prohibits special-education students from being placed in overly restrictive settings. Restraint and seclusion are to be used only as a last resort (“When Discipline Starts a Fight,” The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 9, 2007). But where is the line when teachers and other students are clearly in danger?

I’m not recommending the use of such measures as routine strategies. But what the teacher in this case suffered from her student and from school officials is outrageous. No wonder she is suing. Once again though, I’d like to know where her union was when she was undergoing such physical and psychological abuse. The fact that she had to hire her own attorney is evidence that her union was derelict in its duty.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.