Child Abuse in Education

One of the most horrifying events to witness was a cell-phone video of a teacher who worked her way toward a child, hunched over and almost making a sadistic game of threatening to attack the child. The teacher, Sherri Lynn Davis of Houston, then proceeded to attack the child and to beat him for an extended period of time. No one, including the person taking the video, stepped in on the teacher or moved to stop the beating. The teacher was, of course, fired, but was later determined to be unlicensed and with a history of problems.

Many adults remember having teachers who regularly abused students with punches, slaps and instruments, such as rulers, with such force as to leave permanent scarring, which is unconscionable.

Children have been beaten, molested, subjected to sadistic physical or emotional punishment, duct taped, locked in dark closets, slammed against walls, tased, shot, killed, left to fend for themselves against bullies with teachers watching and doing nothing, threatened, molested and otherwise physically and violently harmed in schools across the nation.

In this day and age, it would be an expectation that teachers would be formally educated, certified, licensed, screened for mental illness, background checked for criminal activity and otherwise qualified to handle a classroom of students without resorting to physical assault and battery.  There should be sufficient security, safety and medial alert response to get someone into a classroom that is out of control before violence gets started.

And abuse needs to be defined as what happens when a teacher lays a hand on a student with the sole intent to cause harm or pain, or when a teacher makes utterances with the sole intent to cause emotional harm and pain.

In any other place, the approach with intent to physically hurt or harm is generally called assault, which is a crime. Actually touching the individual with intent to hurt or harm is usually considered to be battery, which is a crime. When there is an attitude, an official policy or even a negligent environment at school, such incidents will continue to happen and teachers will continue to be arrested, fired and otherwise dealt with.

But it is the subsequent action and response by the child, parents and school authorities that is the most important factor in dealing with abusive teachers of children. Children are easily intimidated into covering up when they are threatened, fearful or believe that nothing will be done. The child’s claims are far too frequently given far less merit than the teacher’s or other’s claims.

Some schools cover up incidents where teachers have gone too far. While the parents and child will be aware of an abusive incident, the school might withhold information about the incident from the other parents and children who have to interact with the same teacher.

Students should be allowed to have cell phones with cameras in case of out of control people of any standing at the school and in case of other situations where they need to create records and evidence. This may be the only way for the facts in the matters to come out, whether the student attacks the teacher who acts in self defense, or whether the teacher attacks the student.

Video evidence is the only way that the full story can be revealed. What the student, teacher and other students did or did not do before the violence and abuse, whether the teacher sought security or other help, or whether a particular student was singled out of a group of misbehaving students and violently attacked.

It might not be so draconian these days to have surveillance cameras on school buses and in classrooms and hallways, given the rise in violence, disobedience, unauthorized people on school property, unstable teachers and students. Also, given the rising need to have the truth of the matter revealed to law enforcement, to the parents, and to the public, some video record needs to be easy to make and to present in ways that protect the anonymity and safety of the person making the record.

In summary, video evidence seems to be the only way to identify and apprehend teachers who abuse students, either emotionally or physically, under conditions where they have ultimate authority and where they can easily be given the benefit of a doubt in the matter when only anecdotal evidence can be given.