Teacher killings bring profession's risks to light
When a 16-year-old student slammed a metal trash can onto Philip Raimondo's head, it did more than break open the history teacher's scalp, knock him out and send him bleeding to the floor.
“It changed my whole world,” Raimondo said.
Experts say the phenomenon of student-on-teacher violence is too often ignored.
“There's some reluctance to think that the teaching profession can be unsafe,” said Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois.
The educational psychology professor recently headed a national task force on classroom violence directed at teachers. The group found that little has been done to try to understand or prevent such incidents despite the potential implications on teacher retention and student performance, among other things.
But the October deaths, one day apart, of Nevada middle school math teacher Michael Landsberry, who was shot on a basketball court by a suicidal 12-year-old, and Massachusetts high school math teacher Colleen Ritzer, who authorities said was attacked by a 14-year-old student inside a school bathroom, have brought the issue to the forefront.
About 4 percent of public school teachers reported they had been attacked physically during the 2007-08 school year, according to the Department of Education, citing a 2012 school safety report. Seven percent were threatened with injury by a student.
A 2011 survey found that 80 percent of teachers reported being intimidated, harassed, assaulted or otherwise victimized at least once during the previous year.
“The reality is it can happen anywhere,” said Columbia High School principal John Sawchuk, who in 2004 had to wrestle a 16-year-old student for a loaded shotgun the boy used to wound a teacher in his East Greenbush, N.Y., school.
“That was the most terrifying moment of my life, something I will never forget,” Sawchuk said. “I kept thinking, if I let go, he's going to kill me.
“You never really get over it. You try to learn from it,” said Sawchuk, who added security officers, stepped up emergency drills and has stressed heightened vigilance since the shooting.
“We don't leave a stone unturned anymore,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New York City’s salt warning rule to take effect at chain restaurants
- Opposition mounts to genetic modification of human embryos
- House majority leader predicts no government shutdown over Planned Parenthood
- EPA increases ethanol in gasoline supply for 2016
- Cleveland panel OKs lakefront Superman statue
- Atlantic Coast cities rise up against offshore drilling plans
- Storm dumps snow on Northern Plains
- Artists plan to rebuild Alaska art display damaged by tides
- Iraq War veteran, mother of 2 slain in Colorado clinic rampage
- Obama, Hollande pledge solidarity against Islamic State
- Investors buy shares in college students: Purdue University thinks it’s wave of future