25 Investigates: Mass. teachers react to survey on violence against educator

This week, 25 Investigates revealed the results of our exclusive survey on teacher safety. We teamed with our sister stations across the country to ask educators how safe they feel inside their schools. More than a thousand Massachusetts teachers responded.

Now, anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh is hearing directly from some who took the survey about what it revealed.

She recently brought them together for a panel discussion.

Kavanaugh: I know you get a lot of surveys. When you saw this one, why did each of you want to participate?

Chris Santos: You caught me at the right time. I had just been on the end of one of those assaults. Punched four times, twice in the face, twice in the stomach. Too darn old to be doing this.

Chris Santos is a middle school teacher in Berkley, in southeastern Massachusetts.

Brett Iarrobino: I really gravitated towards the survey because I see what’s going on with our young people in this country. I really see it as a really a public health emergency and crisis.

Brett Iarrobino teaches middle and high schoolers in Worcester. He says he’s never been subjected to physical abuse, but he’s seen it.

Brett Iarrobino: Anything we can do to sort of ring that alarm bell and really let the public know that we are in the trenches.

Elaine Antonellis: All teachers should have the de-escalation training. And here we have more and more of these kids in the classroom.

Elaine Antonellis is a school adjustment counselor in Watertown.

Elaine Antonellis: When people don’t know how to do those things, behaviors escalate.

Kavanaugh: As educators, is this your top concern right now? Is it top three?”

Donna Grady: For me and colleagues that I deal with across the state I would say yes it is a top concern

Donna Grady teaches kindergarten in Franklin.

Donna Grady: A lot of kids are coming to us now with trauma that we haven’t seen before. And people just feel you’re not handling your classroom management.

What is their food stability? Home stability? We can only deal with the child that comes to us.

Kavanaugh: When there is a dysregulated child in a room, how does that affect all the other kids in their learning experience?

Brett Iarrobino: Oh my goodness, it disregulates everyone else, teachers included. The whole culture of a classroom can shift because one student isn’t having their needs met.

That’s why we have school adjustment counselors. That’s why we have school psychologists.

Kavanaugh: 71% of teachers who took our survey said they had been subjected to violence by a student at least once. Do those numbers surprise you?

Donna Grady: I actually thought that was low. I just hear more and more people saying, “you know, I just need to be done.”

Chris Santos: It’s the respect that’s lost. It’s ownership. No one’s taking ownership of their children. No one’s taking ownership of their children’s actions, and they’re not taking ownership of their actions. That’s what it comes down to.

Elaine Antonellis: We’re not talking now that there’s just one kid in the class, right? It’s not anymore ‘Oh, that’s that child that has a hard time’, There’s multiple. You could have the best classroom management.

Chris Santos: Oh no. You have no chance.

Kavanaugh: 61% of the teachers who responded here in Massachusetts said they have considered retirement, and we already have a teacher shortage.

Donna Grady: I am going to push back a little bit. I don’t think we have a teacher shortage. I think we have a shortage of teachers willing to not be respected anymore.

Kavanaugh: What’s going to make things better?

Donna Grady: We need to entice people in. We need kids to see themselves reflected in the educators. And to do that, we need to have funding so that we have appropriate staffing levels.

Kavanaugh: What do you want to tell state leaders

Elaine Antonellis: Come. Nobody’s in this because we hate kids.

Brett Iarrobino: And yet decisions are made that sort of reflect that mentality or just reflect a distrust.

Elaine Antonellis: Kids will do well if they can.

Chris Santos: You just got to be the good human in their life.

And the teachers told Kavanaugh despite everything schools are up against, they think kids are mostly doing ok. But they stressed the importance of resources for kids and teachers to keep it that way.

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