Violence in any form is prohibited in various environments including academic institutions. From students fighting each other to teachers fighting students or each other, most educational institutions have regulations forbidding violence on school grounds.
And while these regulations serve to deter fights in school to some extent, the problem persists. The most common, being, students fighting each other on school grounds. The least common on the other hand, being, a student fighting a teacher.
While this may be rare, most teachers would confirm experiencing this or at the very least knowing a colleague with such experience. The biggest challenge in such cases is what the teacher can do when a student attacks them.
After all, such situations can be riskier for teachers as injuring a student could lead to severe consequences. The question then remains whether teachers can hit students in self-defense.
So, can teachers fight back when they’re being attacked by their students? This article will look into this question and any regulations governing the forms of actions that can be taken in such situations.
Hitting A Teacher
While there’re numerous regulations in education geared towards protecting the interest of students, there’re only a few when it comes to teachers. That said, teachers have rights, and hitting or threatening a teacher could lead to serious consequences.
These consequences go beyond the offending student as they could negatively impact the classroom environment and the teacher. Ramifications of such an action on the classroom environment include:
- It undermines the teacher’s authority
- It can frighten other students
- It can encourage other students and increases the chances of student-on-student violence
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Can Teachers Hit A Student In Self Defense
While it’s inappropriate for teachers to hit students, it’s not unheard of that a teacher is on the receiving end. But are teachers allowed to hit students in an attempt to defend themselves?
There may be cases where a student’s violent behavior calls for the protection of the teacher and other students. Is a teacher allowed to use physical force in such cases?
To answer this question, let’s first take a look at any regulations around teachers physically confronting students.
Education Code 49001(a)
“ ‘corporal punishment’ means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil. An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section.”
The education code 49001(a) recognizes that teachers and other school employees may use reasonable force necessary to quell any disturbance threatening injury to others and property as well as themselves.
Keep in mind here that there’re some keywords in the Education Code 49001(a). The amount of force needs to be reasonable which would most likely be determined by authorities after the fact. So, to answer the question of whether teachers can fight back, we’ll say:
Teachers are allowed to only use reasonable force in self-defense or to quell any disturbance threatening injury to students. However, teachers should refrain from such actions in the absence of credible witnesses as a false report to a student’s parent could lead to charges against the teacher.
Even when teachers are allowed to physically restrain students threatening injury, the teacher should ensure that their act of self-defense can be confirmed. Witnesses from other students, teachers, or the presence of an active camera can help confirm the teacher’s use of force in the situation.
If the student tells a different story to their parents, a teacher who is without the necessary evidence could potentially face jail time and lose their license.
What Would Happen If A Teacher Hit A Student
While some states and public schools do not prohibit corporal punishment in schools, the number of states that do continues to increase. Teachers in charge of training students are advised to refrain from any form of corporal punishment including hitting a student.
Teachers who breach these policies against corporal punishment risk severe punishment including:
In this litigious society, hitting a student is one of the worst things a teacher can do. You can face criminal charges for child abuse, assault, and other charges depending on the circumstances.
Found guilty, teachers could face up to 6 months in jail, pay a fine, or both. Keep in mind that violation of educational standards can lead to civil and criminal liabilities for a teacher.
Reassignment To An Out-Of-School Position
While an investigation into the incident is conducted, you will remain with the district so long as it is not within your 90-day probationary contract window.
Department Of Education (DOE) Investigation
Since districts are mandated to report such incidence to the Department of Education, they can open their own investigation into the matter even after the districts have concluded and cleared the teacher of any charges.
Depending on the outcome of any investigation, the teacher’s license could be at risk. Teachers found guilty could lose their teaching licenses.
Court Of Public Opinion
Even after the teacher has been found innocent, the court of public opinion still exists. In this age of social media and spin, the publicity such issues receive could have negative repercussions for the teacher even after the case has been settled.
What Teachers Can Do When Threatened Or Hit By Students
Like every working professional, teachers have the right to a safe workplace, which includes being free from student harassment, threats, and attacks. Schools have protocols in place to deal with threats and violence from students because they are aware of this. However, each state, including its districts, has its laws and regulations.
Use Physical Restraint Sparingly
Should the student be likely to attack or endanger other students, ensure that you move all other students away from them. Refrain from making physical contact unless they’re likely to hurt another student or yourself. Even then, ensure that you only use reasonable force.
If you need to use physical force to restrain a student endangering yourself and other students, ensure that there’re witnesses on the scene, or at the very least there’s a camera there for proof.
This is necessary as any negative information presented by the student could be seen as the truth especially when angry parents are involved.
Inform School Principal
If confronted directly and threatened by a physically intimidating student, it’s advisable to walk away and find assistance. Don’t stand up to them, even if you think you can take them. Your ego will rebound, but your career won’t.
Hitting back may seem justified, but it opens up the teacher and school district to bigger problems. The student who hits a teacher falls under different laws protecting school personnel, however, the teacher hitting back, even when most feel it to be justified, often nullifies those laws’ applicability and causes the teacher to be eligible for assault charges.
Parents have a part in the education of their children. It’s advisable to arrange an in-person meeting with the parent of the students. Ensure that the principal of the school is present during this meeting. If the principal is unavailable, ensure that the next in authority or another teacher is present.
Solicit the advice of the parent on preventing similar incidents in the future and actions to be taken should one occur. Once both parties have come to an agreement on the appropriate action to take should a similar incident be repeated, it’s advisable to invite the student so they can hear that you and his parents are of one mind about his behavior and how it will be dealt with.
This includes punishment that should follow such incidents. Keep in mind that any agreed-on punishment should not be corporal. Students can even sign a behavior contract that specifies the punishment that follows.
Request Removal From Class
In extreme cases where the teacher is concerned for their physical wellbeing and repeated incidents, you can request for the student to be removed from your class. The principal should be alerted, grievances should be presented, and an agreement should be reached to permanently remove the student from the class.
Involve Your Local Teachers Union
Teachers have the right to a safe working environment like everyone else. As a result, there’re national and local unions that provide teachers with the necessary help. In the case of repeated or severe incidence, it’s advisable to alert your respective union.
This should be accompanied by the necessary proof including images, videos, and a doctor’s report where applicable within 24 hours of the incident.