Behavior specialists analyze what’s behind students attacking teachers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A suspect lunged at the victim and started strangling her, pressing a pin against her neck, choking her.

This was no street attack.

It wasn`t a hardened criminal lashing out, but a 10-year-old boy who targeted his substitute teacher at Ross Elementary School.

WREG spoke with the young boy`s mother who said her son attacked other teachers too.

She blamed it on a head injury and said the boy is ADHD and on medication.

She also said the school was aware of his condition and continued placing him in classes were he wasn`t getting specialized help.

"Each school needs a behavior specialist. If they have one, maybe they can help us with the behaviors with the students," said a  2nd grade teacher, who told us about kids as young as 7 and 8-year-olds throwing chairs, pushing and kicking teachers.

She said more teachers would be attacked unless students get intervention.

Malissa Duckworth, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with U-T Health Science Center, worked with childhood behavior issues.

"Aggression may be a sign of defensiveness, trying to push away that non-preferred activity or that activity that is deemed to be too difficult for them," said Duckworth.

For clinical disorders she said students need services catered particularly to their situation.

"The solution before us all is to meet a child where they are, assess their developmental needs, their learning needs. A teacher is trying to manage more than 20 students in a class, so being able to meet each child individually is a daunting task for a teacher," said Duckworth.

The Shelby County School System does offer services to students with behavior issues including resource classes and individualized education plans.

Even Shelby County School Superintendent Dorsey Hopson admitted more needs to be done.

"When you have a very fragile population that needs that kind of social support, I'd agree, but as you are trying to grapple with dwindling resources, you have to do the best you can with what you have," said Hopson.

That's why the School System asked for more funding from the Shelby County Commission.

It could take even more than that.

Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson said the anger and outrage among kids was an epidemic and needs to be treated as such by the state.

"Let's get the resources in from a health standpoint to start really getting at intervention to those children at those early ages they need," said Parkinson.

Parkinson wanted crime declared a health issue and funding to treat the behaviors of children lashing out on teachers.

"I've tried everything. I have called the parents, the parents tell me they are doing the same thing at home or parents tell me they don't know what else they are going to do with their child," said a frustrated teacher.

As for that 10-year-old who attacked his substitute teacher at Ross Elementary, his mom said he was expelled.

Teachers also called for better communications, so all new teachers or substitute teachers are aware of students' issues and special needs before they even get in the class.

The Shelby County School System said it also offers services through its Mental Health Center, where staff provides anger management, teach coping skills and show students alternatives to violence.

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