Despite what most of us read online or see in the news, public schools and its’ teachers do a very good job educating our children and keeping our children safe in the process. In many respects, the job of teacher is thankless – long hours, low pay, constant criticism by parents (and students). But most teachers serve because they love their work and their students – and teachers are integral to our civil society.
But, one reality of teaching in today’s public school classrooms is that teachers face the dilemma of being the only adult presence during physical altercations between teenage students. Witnessing fights in the classroom is scary – and intervening can be even scarier – not only because many teenagers are physically strong but also because reacting can lead to discipline against the teacher.
Courts are starting to come to grips with the reality of classroom situations and the dilemma teachers face when unruly students get into altercations in the classroom. A recent 2017 case from Indian River County in Florida led to the firing of the teacher who engaged a student in a physical altercation in the classroom. After being fired, the teacher requested a formal administrative hearing where all of the evidence was presented. At the conclusion of the hearing the Administrative Law Judge recommended that the School Board exonerate the teacher, stating the following: the teacher “ha[d] the fortitude to stand tall, roll up his sleeves, and do the tough job of keeping a foul-mouthed, defiant, and violently aggressive student from causing further damage. For this he should be given a pat on the back, not a pink slip.”
Teachers have due process rights when facing discipline from local school boards or the State Department of Education and should demand those rights.