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Teacher Misconduct

Verbal and Emotional Abuse in the Classroom


We've all heard the stories about certain teachers that yell at their students, throw things in the classroom or have negative dispositions with their students. These are individuals that have chosen to be educators, ... so it can reasonably be assumed that at some point in time they were enthusiastic about the prospect of teaching our children.  What happens to that enthusiasm and their love of teaching?

     Well let's examine what the problems could be.  Could teacher's be losing their tempers because of the levels of disrespect they're forced to tolerate?  Could it be the constant necessity to intervene in arguments between other students?  Could it be the frustration of not being able to control your classroom for fear of stepping over the line?  Could it be the disappointment and disbelief that an effort made to contact the  parent of a failing or disruptive child be be met with verbal abuses, or unveiled apathy?  Could it be the exasperation of being expected to do a job well under conditions that make that expectation unachievable? 

     As parents we have to  be realistic and honest with ourselves about all  the issues that are involved in  "A day in the life of a teacher."    Does that make it all right for a teacher to yell at our children?  No. Does it make it more palatable for parents when we feel our children are being mistreated?  Not even for a second.  But what is does mean is that if we want to see improvement in the demeanor of the people hired to educate our children we have to make sure that they are in environments that are conducive to teaching professionally, effectively, and pleasantly. 

Is Bullying Going to the Head of the Class?.....

       The frightening aspect of the conditions that exist within our nation's classrooms are complex to say the least.  Personality clashes can and do exist between teachers and students.  Often times children are made fun of and ridiculed in front of an entire class by their teachers.  Eventually the students behavior that may or may not have initiated these abusive exchanges becomes insignificant.  The feature show in the class becomes for other students to see whether or not the teacher will successfully force a child into a submissive posture.  Regardless of how legitimate the teacher's motives may have been in initiating the reprimand, the price of the victory pales in comparison to the cost of a child's self-esteem. 

     Not only can these instances of abusive exchanges with teachers be extensively damaging for the child on the receiving end, ... they also set a horrific example for the other children exposed to the exchange.  Students that may already  be prone to bully may consequently feel that not only are they justified in their own abusive behaviors, but they are sanctioned by the administration because of what they see in the classroom.

National Child Prevention Clearinghouse

Emotional Abuse:
The hidden form of

(excerpt) A particular form of systems abuse that is not frequently mentioned in the literature, is emotional abuse within educational settings. A number of studies have indicated that a proportion of teachers commonly use emotional abuse in conjunction with other punitive disciplining practices as a means of exerting control (Hart, Germain & Brassard 1987; Briggs & Hawkins 1996).

While physical punishment has been banned in most educational settings, emotional abuse often passes without comment (Briggs & Hawkins 1996). Briggs and Hawkins (1996), in their book Child Protection: A Guide for Teachers and Child Care Professionals, cite studies by Krugman and Krugman (1984) and Hyman (1985), which found that teachers emotionally abused children by: overly restricting access to toilets for very young children; threatening to tell parents of a child's misbehavior or unsatisfactory work; rejecting the child or their work; verbally abusing children; harassing, or allowing other children to harass children; labeling children as 'ineducable', 'dumb' or 'stupid'; screaming at children till they cried; and providing a 'continuous experience of failure by setting ... tasks that are inappropriate for their stages of development' (Briggs & Hawkins 1996, p.37).

Briggs and Hawkins describe other 'emotionally abusive' actions recorded in the two studies: pinching, shaking and pulling children by the ears; using fear-inducing techniques to control children; and tipping or pulling chairs out from under seated children. Such behaviors would seem to be more appropriately labeled as physically abusive, indicating yet again the difficulties experienced in developing clear definitions of emotionally abusive acts.

Finally, Briggs and Hawkins (1996) highlight as emotionally abusive the failure of teachers to deal with allegations or suspicions of child maltreatment, along with the experience of bullying by peers.  More

Verbal Abuse of Children 
What are signs that a child is suffering from verbal abuse?

•  Negative self-image. This is the most common and pervasive effect of verbal abuse. Your child may say things like, "I'm stupid," or, "Nobody likes me." Or he may simply seem withdrawn, sullen, or depressed, all of which can be signs of a poor self-image. In defining emotional abuse, the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse says that it "attacks a child's ... sense of self-worth."

•  Self-destructive acts. "Cutting" (using razor blades or knives to cut his own skin) and all forms of self-injury signal a problem, as do other reckless activities that put your child in danger.

•  Antisocial behavior. The New Hampshire study found that verbally abused children demonstrated higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and interpersonal problems. Your child may hit other children, frequently quarrel with his classmates, or be cruel to (or even torture) animals.

•  Delayed development. The slowdown may appear in your child's physical, social, academic, or emotional development. He may have difficulty making friends, fall behind in school, or engage in regressive acts such as rocking, bed-wetting, and thumb-sucking. (More)

What can I do to prevent someone else from verbally abusing my child or another child?

Always be aware of other influences on your child. Just because you have your temper under control doesn't mean that all the other adults in your child's life do. Teachers, coaches, babysitters, siblings, older siblings of friends, and even other children's parents can harm your child by demeaning or humiliating him. Make a point of asking your child about his relationships with other adults. Of course, he might not tell you if someone is verbally abusing him - he might not even realize it. So you'll want to be on the lookout for signs of emotional turmoil: Nightmares, bed-wetting, school phobia, and other signs of excessive anxiety may be part of the "code" you'll have to crack in order to figure out what's troubling your child.

If you feel that another adult is abusing your child or his or her own child, you can call the National Child Abuse Hot Line at (800) 422-4453, for advice. If you're certain of the problem, contact your local Child Protective Services (CPS) agency to report it. CPS professionals will evaluate the report, and if they deem it necessary, they will send someone out to talk with the alleged abuser. CPS will keep your report confidential, although you can make an anonymous report if you prefer. (But keep in mind that bogus anonymous reports are, unfortunately, quite common.)

Sometimes a family counselor or psychologist can assess your child for signs of verbal abuse. If you think the abuse is occurring at school, be sure to take your child to be evaluated by someone independent of the school. Oftentimes your family doctor or pediatrician can help you with a referral. Do whatever is necessary to get your child away from the abuser -- if a P.E. coach is taunting him, for example, ask that he be placed in a different class. And be sure to make your concerns known to the principal, director, league officials, and so on. (More)

Prevent Child Abuse America
Fact Sheet: (See) Emotional Child Abuse - How is it Identified?

(excerpt) Although emotional abuse can hurt as much as physical abuse, it can be harder to identify because the marks are left on the inside instead of the outside.4 Not surprising, there exist few
well-validated measures of childhood emotional abuse. Clinicians can use a revised version of the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale (CATS) which targets measures for emotional abuse.5

Caregivers can also closely observe children’s behaviors and personalities. Children suffering from emotional abuse are often extremely loyal to the parent, afraid of being punished if they
report abuse, or think that this type of abuse is a normal way of life.3  Behavioral indicators of an emotionally abused child include inappropriate behavior that is immature or more mature for the child’s age, dramatic behavioral changes (disruption of activities, clinging or compulsively seeking affection and attention), aggressiveness, uncooperativeness, bedwetting or loss of bowel control (after a child has been trained), and destructive or antisocial behavior (being constantly withdrawn and sad). Furthermore, poor relationships with peers, lack of self confidence, unusual fears for the child’s age (fear of going home, being left alone, specific objects), or inability to react with emotion or develop an emotional bond with others are also indicators. Realistically, any of the above behaviors may also be seen in normal children, but a change in pattern of these behaviors is a strong indicator of emotional abuse.3





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Year Round Schools


Emotional Abuse in
Educational Settings

Teacher's Dirty Looks

Conflict Intervention: 
What you can do to protect
your child

Verbal Abuse of Children 
What are signs that a child is suffering from verbal abuse?  Child Abuse: Types, Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Help- Emotional Abuse

What can I do to prevent someone else from verbally abusing my child or another child?

Dirty Secrets: Research on abuse limited, but indicates a pervasive problem

Dirty Secrets: Why sexually abusive teachers aren't stopped

Education Week on the Web:
 A Trust Betrayed: 
Sexual Abuse by Teachers



 Behind the Classroom Door -

Emotional and Verbal Abuse in the Classroom



St. Petersburg Times OnLine: Elementary teacher quits after inquiry into abuse

Athens Online:
House OKs Bill Abolishing One Agency that Handles Teacher Misconduct Cases


When Your Child Feels Singled Out 












































































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