MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “It’s just a different type of child,” one teacher told us.
“I have never seen so many disrespectful, defiant children in my life,” said another teacher.
“Angry children. Children that don’t fear authority,” the teachers said.
Behind the books and the lesson plans, there was a fear among teachers.
“Because of the stress, because of the exhaustion, I start having migraine headaches,” one of them told us.
It`s not the work load, but something many never expected and would only willingly talk about with their identities hidden.
They were talking about those students, who instead of obeying authority were constantly challenging it, violently.
“Today one of my colleagues was pushed by a student and then a teacher’s assistant was pushed by a student again,” said another teacher.
It`s happening in classrooms across Shelby County.
WREG Investigators got a list of the teachers attacked by their students in 2013 and 2014.
A laundry list of shocking incidents, where students kicked, punched and grabbed teachers by the neck inside schools.
One former Booker T. Washington High School teacher said students attacked him 3 times this school year.
In September, a student he was taking to the office, threw a glass mug at him.
“He steps away from me and he hurls it at me, at my face and it hit the tip of my finger,” he said.
The teacher went to the doctor.
A month later, that same teacher was jumped again by a student and his cousin after trying to take the student to the office.
“They both jumped me. My first swing and I thought you are not supposed to hit these kids, but your are supposed to protect yourself. It’s a double edge sword when you are a teacher,” he said.
The teacher ended up with a torn rotator cuff.
The last straw was this past November, when he told a disruptive student to leave the classroom.
“He walks towards the door, then he walks right at me and throws an elbow at me and pushes me up against the wall with the principal sitting there,” he said. “I tried to go back, but this was the third time. I said you know what. I can’t do this.”
The teacher`s union said it`s getting to be too much.
“In my 41 years of teaching I have not seen such an avalanche of bad behavior, disrespectful like behavior, mob like behavior of children in schools,” said Memphis Education Association President Keith Williams. “It is to the point of teachers are leaving this profession in droves. ”
We asked Shelby County School Superintendent Dorsey Hopson about the teacher assaults.
“The report may say an assault on a teacher. That could be anywhere from a spitball to somebody bumping into a teacher. Obviously when there are instances involving teacher safety, we are responsive,” said Hopson.
But it has been more than a spitball and it happened more than you might realize.
When we asked Shelby County Schools for a list of all teachers assaulted by students in the last 2 years, they didn`t include any mention of the teacher who was attacked 3 times, even though we found police reports filed on his assault.
Teachers told WREG they were at the breaking point.
“They are violent, either vocal,” said a 2nd grade teacher of her 7 and 8-year-olds. “If they are not vocal, they will hit you and they will say ugly things, things you will hear adults say on the streets.”
She said there were even times when they would throw chairs, push and kick teachers.
At Colonial Middle School last school year, a teacher was pushed and hit by a student after telling the student to sit down.
The student began yelling the ‘F’ word and threatened his gang was coming to the school to ‘F-them up’.
Officers later found a gang letter in the student`s folder.
Teachers said they need help and violent students, who sometimes are on medication or have special needs, may require specialists.
“That’s why we have asked the County Commission to share for a small investment for funding around some of the issues, guidance counselors, social workers to try and get at some of the root causes and address some of these very serious issues,” said Hopson.
The teachers who talked with us admitted there were plenty of good students, but those who continuously go to the extreme put everyone in jeopardy.
The School Superintendent said the system also hoped to get more funding so the grievance department where teachers can turn for help can be restored.
It was cut and services merged with another department because of budget issues.
There’s more to come on this story as WREG digs deeper into this troubling trend of school violence and take a look at the services available to treat symptoms before students ever unleash on their teachers.