Teachers Who Bully

By Marc L. Terry and Amanda Marie Baer

In November 2011, a New Jersey teenager named Julio, who had ADHD, used his cell phone to record his teacher taunting him. The teacher called him “special” and said, “I will kick your ass from here to kingdom come until I’m 80 years old.”

One month later in Ohio, a teenage girl with special needs wore a wire camera to school for four days. She recorded a teacher’s aide telling her that she was “dumb” and a “liar,” and saying, “Don’t you want to get rid of that belly? Go for a walk. Do you know how to? You are just lazy and your family is lazy.”

These recordings went viral online and shocked the public. Unfortunately, the teachers’ behaviors were not isolated incidents. Instead, they represent an often-overlooked type of bullying that takes place in schools across the country: teacher-on-student bullying. In fact, 45 percent of teachers have admitted to bullying at least one student, according to the authors of a 2006 report, Teachers Who Bully Students: A Hidden Trauma.

While state legislatures and school districts have dedicated considerable attention and resources to preventing and addressing students bullying each other, the problem of teachers bullying their students has received notably less attention. This is unfortunate for many reasons, one of which is that it presents potential liabilities to districts and administrators. School leaders are wise to take action to prevent teacher-on-student bullying and to address allegations of these incidents.

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