Across the nation, educators, police and lawmakers are struggling to increase safety in schools. A 20-year string of mass shootings has largely focused attention on one scary scenario: the alienated student with a gun firing on classmates and staff, often indiscriminately. Threats and violence on a smaller scale, against teachers, often go underreported, misreported or completely ignored, experts tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Student discipline reports for Gwinnett County, Ga., Public Schools, the largest system in the state, showed 80 incidents of abuse or threat against school employees in the third quarter of the 2018-2019 school year. The same time period a year ago showed 99 incidents.
In a U.S. Department of Education survey three years ago, 10 percent of public school teachers said they had been threatened with injury by a student during the past year, and 6 percent said they were actually assaulted. While the survey numbers might be alarming to some, they’re probably understated, said school safety expert Ken Trump. There’s an incentive for school systems to downplay incidents: Some schools have enough trouble attracting qualified teachers; they don’t want to make it even more difficult, he said. That stance makes it harder to find solutions, Trump said. One Georgia teacher addressed Gwinnett County school board members. She said, “My name is Jen Guyre, and I’m the teacher who was stabbed by a student in my classroom.” Last October, a 14-year old boy in her eighth-grade language arts class lunged at her with a butcher knife. Guyre urged the school board to prohibit middle schoolers from carrying backpacks into classrooms. Had such a rule been in place, she said, she might have seen her attack coming.