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‘I’m scared every day.’ Ch. 2 survey shows 2 out of every 3 GA teachers victims of school violence – WSB-TV Channel 2 | #schoolsaftey


ATLANTA — A majority of teachers who responded to an exclusive Channel 2 Action News survey say they have considered quitting their jobs because of concerns about their safety in the classroom.

We surveyed nearly 1,000 participants here in Georgia and more than 8,000 nationwide.

The survey gave us a statistically sound look at what teachers are experiencing. Two out of three people told us they had been the victim of a violent attack by a student.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke with teachers across the state, giving them an opportunity to anonymously share their opinions.

We obtained cell phone camera when a student attacked English teacher Tiwana Turner at Heritage High School in Rockdale County in 2023.

“She just lost it,” Turner said. “It was streamed up 65 million times.”

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But Georgia teachers say it’s not just things you see in viral videos or headline-grabbing gun violence — violence is a common occurrence in their profession.

“We’re not protected. We’re not supported a lot of times. It’s tough,” Turner said.

Channel 2 Action News wanted to know more about what teachers are facing — so we asked.

“To be honest, I’m scared every day out of my mind,” a metro teacher who wanted to remain anonymous said.

We found 61% of Georgia teachers who took the survey say they’ve considered quitting or retiring because of violence against teachers.

We also surveyed teachers beyond Georgia — more than 8,000 educators in 34 states — and the answer was nearly identical with 63% considering leaving the profession because of safety.

After a three-decade career a DeKalb County high school teacher, who wanted us to hide her identity, said she’s one of the teachers who took our survey.

“Every day is a struggle. I am contemplating every day, ‘Should I retire now?’” the DeKalb teacher said.

She was hit in the face this past winter out of nowhere by a student with a metal object.

“I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even address the student. I’m just enjoying the Christmas music, standing in the hall with a coworker. I had no idea that I was going to come to work that day to be hit in the head,” the DeKalb Teacher said.

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Amber Strickland taught elementary school in Harrelson County for more than 20 years. She was attacked by a 4th grader with a reusable water bottle.

“He just started hitting me with it everywhere, from the shoulder down to the knee, because he was just mad at me, because I did not give him his water bottle like he wanted,” Strickland said.

Some 66% of Georgia teachers who responded told us they have personally experienced physical violence from a student at least once.

Turner suffered a serious leg injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation.

“She was out for blood,” Turner said. “It was a traumatizing experience. I couldn’t shower alone. I couldn’t do anything. Somebody had to feed me. I had to have home health care.”

Even as the physical injuries started to heal, Turner says she couldn’t go back to the classroom and couldn’t do the job she loved.

“Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to even look at a school,” Turner said.

Turner isn’t alone. About 54% of the Georgia teachers surveyed Channel 2 Action News report sometimes being afraid to go to school.

“I’m constantly, always looking over my shoulder,” a teacher said.

“For the rest of the school year, he was in my classroom every day,” Strickland said.

“I cried so much, I don’t even think I have any more tears left,” Turner said.

We took the results of our 17-question survey to Marietta Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera.

“I think there’s certainly valuable information that every school district can reflect on,” Rivera said.

Rivera said his district has quarterly listening sessions with every staff member. He told Gray he was particularly struck by the number of teachers who told us they considered quitting the profession

“As school systems across the country, we have to analyze what the root cause of those feelings are and make sure that we’re as proactively as possible trying to address those. We can’t wait until after the fact, because at that point, that person has left the profession and left the classroom,” Rivera said.

A year and a half after the violent attack against her, Turner is planning on a return to teaching in a new school and a new district where she said she feels supported by school leaders.

“You still light up when you think about your students,” Gray told Turner.

“I know, because I miss them. I miss my students,” Turner said.

Major school districts report zero incidents

We’ve also obtained state data that shows some major metro Atlanta school districts are reporting zero incidents of violence against teachers even when there have been high-profile attacks at their schools.

Turner worked in Rockdale County at the time of her attack. But according to the state Department of Education records for Rockdale County in 2023, the district reported zero incidents under the violence against teacher category for 2023.

And it’s not just Rockdale County.

One of the state’s largest districts — Atlanta Public Schools – reports zero every year since the state added the category to its tracking in 2019.

“That category was created obviously, for a reason, to try to document this and see if we’ve got a problem. But if you don’t report the incidents,” Turner said.

“It looks like there’s no problem. And it’s a big problem. It’s a big problem,” Turner said.

Fulton County schools also reported zero incidents since 2020.

For comparison, Gwinnett County schools reported 49 violence against teacher incidents in just the 22/23 school year. Cobb County reported 34 and Clayton 151.

“I think we need to have tracking of the issues so that we know how to address them,” said Dr. Susan McMahon who led a task force studying violence against teachers from the American Psychological Association.

McMahon said Georgia’s efforts to collect this data is important. It’s something many other states are not doing.

“If we’re not tracking anything, I think it’s harder to come up with effective solutions,” McMahon said.

Both Rockdale and Fulton school districts tell us they include these teacher attacks in other categories on violent incidents against staff members they maintain.

Atlanta Public Schools sent Channel 2 Action News a statement, saying:

“The safety and well-being of our students and all our employees is a top priority for Atlanta Public Schools. The district is also committed to the transparent and accurate reporting of data to all stakeholders. Regarding the Georgia Department of Education Student Discipline Incident Report, the district has listed all instances of battery, including those committed against a teacher, in the “battery” column of the report.”

But the State Department of Education said that knowing who the victim is, helps districts better implement solutions. Telling us in a statement, “By accurately tracking and documenting these incidents, we can better understand the scope and nature of educators’ challenges and implement targeted strategies to foster a safer educational environment for all.”

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