A Texas teacher is under fire today after having stood idly by as one student mercilessly punched another in the head. How could this happen?
I can't speak for the teacher in this particular situation, but news of this classroom assault ironically comes just one week after a teacher friend of mine explained to me that at her school in Montgomery County, Maryland, teachers are expressly prohibited from intervening in student fights. Unfortunately, she learned the lesson the hard way. After stepping in to break up an altercation between her own students recently, she walked away with a black eye (from a student) and a slap on the wrist from school administrators.
"We're 'not supposed to touch the students,'" she later explained to me. "We could get sued if we do."
After the fight calmed down, my friend was called to the principal's office and was told NOT to write up a report on the incident. Why? Because she was white and the fighting students were black. These kids have had "rough childhoods," the principal told her, and as a white teacher, she couldn't possibly understand what that was like.
Sadly, these backwards standards have allowed many Montgomery County students to run wild, routinely verbally and physically assaulting their teachers who are not allowed to enforce the rules.
Why don't people complain and do something about it? "People know, but they just don't care," my friend explained.
So should a teacher intervene when a fight breaks out among students? If they choose to act despite the threat of litigation, many sometimes face further vilification from school administrators. So while many of us can't comprehend not intervening, teachers are being forced to ask: why risk it?