Criminal Justice Professor Byongook Moon has received two grants over the last couple of years from the National Institute of Justice to research teacher victimization. When teachers are the victims of physical assault, the effects can be devastating.
by Madeline Will
Feb. 6, 2018
When Michelle Andrews leaned over to talk to a disruptive 6th grader in her class, she says the student struck her in the face, causing Andrews’ neck to snap backwards.
The 2015 incident was scary, and it also caused permanent nerve damage, said Andrews, who had been teaching for six years before the attack. The student was suspended for a week for disrespect toward a teacher—not for assault—and then returned to Andrews’ classroom in Bridgeton, N.J.
When Andrews asked her principal to permanently remove the student from her classroom, she says the principal told her to “put on her big girl panties and deal with it.” Instead, Andrews decided to press charges against the student—a move that she alleges led to her termination from the Bridgeton school district. Andrews sued the school board, claiming she had not been adequately protected after being injured, among other allegations.
She ended up settling for $197,500, but the incident left her shaken and depressed.
“I didn’t know if I even wanted to go back into teaching after all that,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t trust the system, I couldn’t trust my administrators. I was afraid if something like this happened again, how I would react—fight or flight.”