Posted in the New Orleans Forum

MARK TRAINA-fatuous1

Slidell, LA

#1 Feb 24, 2013
In December, a North High School student tussled with Assistant Principal John Creamer and Robert F. Pezzella, school safety liaison for the Worcester Public Schools.
Two weeks ago, an 11-year-old Northbridge student was arrested for allegedly assaulting two teachers.
But the Worcester student, who was irate because he was told he faced suspension for an out-of school charge, was not arrested after the alleged school assault. He was allowed to leave with his mother.
Declining to speak about specific cases, Judge Carol Erskine, first justice of the Worcester County Juvenile Court, said schools are careful about bringing such cases to court if they can handle them in school. That is their prerogative, she said.
Judge Erskine said assaults on teachers are fairly common, and there is a significant amount of disruptive, threatening or aggressive behavior in schools.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said his office doesn't keep statistics, but in the last six years, his impression is that cases of student assaults against teachers have been level.
Statistics from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show a gradual increase the past three years in assaults by students against school personnel.
In 2012, 1,749 school workers statewide were physically assaulted in 1,401 incidents involving 1,412 students, according to DESE.
In 2011, 1,543 school workers were assaulted in 1,268 incidents by 1,275 students, according to the state.
In 2010, 1,283 school workers were assaulted in 1,104 separate incidents that involved 1,115 students across the state.
The American Psychological Association in January called violence against teachers a national crisis.
In the Northbridge incident, the boy was arraigned in Worcester Juvenile Court on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot), assault and battery, disorderly conduct and disturbing a school assembly.
Northbridge police said the two teachers were not injured.
Northbridge Superintendent Nancy Spitulnik said it was impossible for her to answer questions about the prevalence of assaults against teachers in her district.
Mr. Pezzella, the Worcester official, said that while assaults against staff do occur, they are not prevalent.
The degree of assault on a school employee is varied, he said.
It ranges from a student brushing a shoulder into a teacher who's trying to stand in the way to prevent the pupil from leaving class, to a teacher being harmed while trying to break up a student fight.
Instances of a student who's “out-and-out hostile” to an employee, including athletic coaches and game officials, are rare, Mr. Pezzella said.
Mr. Pezzella said the schools have ongoing training about nonviolent crisis intervention under the Crisis Prevention Institute, which provides instruction in noninvasive methods for managing disruptive behavior. The Worcester schools have seven certified instructors.
The first step is to verbally de-escalate a situation, Mr. Pezzella said.
If it is deemed safe, the employee may use physical restraint. The last resort, for the out-of-control student, is to call law enforcement on an allegation of disturbing a school assembly, he said.
The district attorney said most teacher assaults his office has handled involved breaking up a fight. As a result, Mr. Early said, he's seen serious teacher injuries, including back, head or hand wounds, and broken bones.
“The outright teacher assaults seem to be the exception to the rule,” said Mr. Early, who practiced mental health law for 17 years.
Mr. Early said there's “no set, specific, easy, definitive answer” about why a student would resort to attacking a teacher. Reasons include issues at home, or the child is reaching out for attention, or it may even be a case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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