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24.07.2022 | כה תמוז התשפב

Preventing Violence Against Teachers

A new study examined the variables that influence the willingness of teachers to seek help after being targeted by student violence

מחקר אלימות נגד מורים

Violence against teachers is a common problem in education systems in Israel and the world. Teachers engage with students from different backgrounds and mental states, leaving them susceptible to expressions of physical and verbal violence. A new study conducted by Dr. Tamar (Zamski) Tarablus from the Faculty of Education at Bar-Ilan University examined the variables that influence the willingness of teachers to seek help after being targeted by student violence. The researchers hope that the findings of the study will help develop practices that mitigate and even prevent violence.

The study, supervised by Prof. Yaacov B. Yablon of Bar-Ilan's Faculty of Education, focused on data gathered by the Professional Development Unit at the University and included findings from three articles based on anonymous questionnaires sent to approximately 270 teachers. The questionnaires surveyed different types of violence, including verbal, physical, social, and sexual violence.

The first article examined the way in which teachers with different years of seniority dealt with various types of violence directed at them, and their willingness to seek help from their superiors or colleagues. The second article examined the influence of the school climate on teachers' willingness to seek help. The third article examined the relationship between teachers' seniority and their willingness to seek help.

The questionnaires yielded data that correspond with similar data in the world, particularly in the West. According to the data, violence against teachers – especially verbal violence – is increasing. According to a survey conducted in 2015 by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, the annual teacher dropout rate in Israel exceeds 6%. The data indicate that as of 2011, the teacher dropout rate after one year is 10% – an increase from 2008 when the teacher dropout rate after three years was 8.2%.

According to the research, this increase can be explained by a rise of violence against teachers in general and new teachers in particular, mainly due to the loss of authority by teachers and parents over the students.

The main focus of Dr. Tarablus' research pertained to teachers seeking help. The surprising statistic that emerged was that the victims – primarily veteran teachers – don't seek help. The hypothesis that arose is that teachers don't seek help because they fear that doing so would negatively impact their professional reputation as others would view them as unable to control their class, weak, and unprofessional. Thus, in the minds of the teachers, the price that they would pay for seeking help is greater than the benefit of seeking assistance.

Another interesting finding that emerged from the study is that the teachers prefer to seek help from official bodies (such as the school administration, teachers unions, etc.) rather than their colleagues. This is due to the limited ability of their colleagues to offer help and due to the damage to the teachers' reputation that is associated with seeking help.

The findings of the second study, which examined the influence of the school climate on teachers' willingness to seek help, provided interesting insight: the sense of teachers' belonging and security in the workplace contributes to their willingness to seek help. That is, the more that teachers feel a sense of belonging and security in their school, the more likely they are to seek help.

"This study represents the basis for a practice that must be implemented to help teachers," Dr. Tarablus emphasized. "We know that teachers who experience violence are less likely to seek help, primarily due to the lack of relevant bodies that can assist them, but also due to the fear of tarnishing their professional reputation. In light of this, municipalities, teachers unions, and other relevant authorities need to ensure that teachers have an address to which they can turn to receive appropriate assistance. Similar to students who have access to assistance should they need it, teachers should also receive access to assistance. This can ensure that teachers don't leave the education system."

"It is also important to factor in school climate," Dr. Tarablus added. "This is a sign for the Education Ministry to encourage a feeling of belonging and security among teachers."