Classroom Warfare

About 857,500 violent incidents and 479,500 nonviolent incidents were recorded by public schools in 2021-22, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. (Nonviolent incidents include theft, vandalism, drug possession, etc.) About 67% of public schools reported having at least one violent incident.

Hence, it’s hardly surprising that almost half of all teachers reported they “desire or plan to quit or transfer their jobs due to concerns about school climate and school safety,” per a 2022 study by the American Psychological Association.

The ongoing question is what to do about this egregious problem. The National Education Association claims that to deal with it, we must hire more counselors and interventionists.

While additional counselors who can reason with youthful offenders may help in some cases, it is not a fix that will always work.

Corporal punishment?

While there may be something to be said for the “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child mentality” (18 states still permit corporal punishment), this approach is fraught with problems. Schools benefit from a school-wide discipline program, and not all teachers are comfortable whacking kids. I know that when I taught middle school, it would be unthinkable for me to paddle a 13-year-old, especially a girl. Also, many parents might not want to send their kids to a school with a designated flogger.


Having a campus cop is helpful. A law enforcement officer surely is a deterrent to some miscreants. It’s important to note that while many teacher union leaders want to defund the cops, many boots-on-the-ground teachers disagree. A 2021 Heritage Foundation survey asked if defunding school resource officers would make schools safer, and just 7% of teachers responded affirmatively. Additionally, an Ed Week Research Center poll from 2020 showed that, when asked if armed police officers should be eliminated from our nation’s schools, only 20% of teachers, principals, and district leaders completely or partly agreed.

But the racially obsessed equity crowd maintains that a cop’s presence “increases the number of students facing suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, particularly if they are black.” The same bunch, however, never acknowledges that when problem students act out, good kids of all colors are negatively affected.

The race hustlers in the Windy City are acting on the issue. The Chicago Board of Education has just voted to approve a resolution to remove police officers from its schools by the beginning of next school year.

Restorative justice

Promoted by the teachers’ unions and other left-wing education establishmentarians, this touchy-feely new-age malarkey is dangerous. It emphasizes “making the victim and offender whole” and involves “an open discussion of feelings.” Restorative justice came into being because blacks are far more likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. The suggestion here, of course, is that white teachers and administrators tend to be racist. But the bean counters never get around to explaining why the racial disparity exists even in schools where black principals and staff predominate.

The teachers’ unions insist that restorative justice is beneficial. The American Federation of Teachers is devoted to it and has adopted a resolution in support. The National Education Association continues to preach that the “school-to-prison pipeline” is disrupted by restorative justice. But in reality, students are more apt to be imprisoned due to this practice.


Traditionally, misbehaving students have been suspended from school for a day or two. While this certainly makes teaching willing learners easier, it rarely positively impacts the offending student. After a suspension, I always asked the disruptive students how they spent their time when they were out of school. By far, the most prevalent response was a shrug, accompanied by “Watched TV.” Hardly an effective punishment.

A better solution would be to ditch suspensions and, instead, if a kid breaks school rules, make him come to school early or stay late, or possibly expose him to some lectures on Saturday morning. Perhaps then, flipping off the English teacher may lose some of its momentary appeal.

In addition to detention, what else can we do?


Daniel Buck, policy associate at the Fordham Institute and former teacher, recommends looking to school boards. He writes that school boards can compel schools to review student conduct codes to tighten up what behavior warrants what response. A model policy by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty requires administrators to impose consequences: “If a teacher removes a student from class due to behavior outlined in this policy, before a return to class, the building principal or other administrative personnel will administer appropriate corrective action.”

The Marine approach

My middle school employed Mr. Thomas, a former marine drill sergeant, as a guidance counselor. When a misbehaving student was sent to his office, he would make them stand facing the front of the room for an hour or two without talking. He also kept his room a few degrees warmer than necessary. All of the above made it so that students, when threatened with a visit to Mr. Thomas, tamped down their antisocial behavior. But few schools have ex-military personnel in the counseling office.

Body cams

Capturing real-time police activity has become very popular in recent times. In fact, a July 2020 poll from the University of Maryland shows that nearly 90 percent of respondents support body cameras, including 85 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of independents, and 94 percent of Democrats. This is consistent with a 2016 Cato Institute poll, which showed that 89 percent of Americans support “requiring police officers to wear body cameras to record their on-duty interactions.”

Like cops, public school teachers are entrusted by the government to perform a service. So why not employ “edu-cams” which would help keep their students in line? (A side benefit is that the recordings would disclose the content and quality of teachers’ lessons.)

A few schools in England use the technology as a way to reduce attacks against teachers. Larry Davis, deputy headteacher of Southfields Academy in Wimbledon, said the use of body cameras by a small number of staff “had improved behavior and lessened the number of dangerous confrontations since they were introduced at the start of the school year.” Also, a school official said police “found evidence from the body cameras was more useful in making arrests, and that their presence was deterring disruptive behavior….”

It’s also happening in Tennessee. Schools can now buy emergency body cameras and call buttons for schoolteachers through school safety grants.

Tennessee Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) sponsored a bill that would provide $300 to fund lanyards with an emergency button that will send an alert and also begin video and audio recording if a teacher is in a dangerous situation due to student behavior.

But, rather than passing the bill and approving the funding separately, the state Department of Education is allowing the technology to be eligible for purchase using school safety grant funds.

While cameras may curb classroom violence, many parents may not want their children to be part of an ongoing video stream. In that case, a school board could then choose to have a live microphone in every classroom. In this scenario, an audio recording would reveal only the name of the teacher and perhaps the first names of some of the students, but would still record any disruptive behavior.

No one benefits from out-of-control students. It’s time to do something that works before our schools and culture deteriorate even further.

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Larry Sand, a retired 28-year classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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