U will study violence against teachers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved a $1.1 million grant for a study to begin in May.

Josh Verges

University researchers will begin a study in May on the causes and consequences of violence against teachers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved last week the University’s $1.1 million grant, the full amount requested.

Dr. Susan Gerberich, the three-year study’s principal investigator, said the probe is long overdue.

“(The grant) will allow us to address a major public-health problem,” she said.

Homicide is the third-leading cause of death in the workplace, and second among women, she said.

Gerberich called nonfatal acts of violence against teachers “seriously underreported.”

Based on limited information from an advisory committee of teachers, University researchers estimated at least 5 percent of teachers are assaulted physically each year and between 20 and 30 percent are abused nonphysically.

Gerberich’s team plans to survey 12,600 randomly selected K-12 Minnesota teachers about their experiences with physical assaults at work, as well as threats, sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

Judy Schaubach, president of Education Minnesota, a state teachers’ union, said reports of violence against its members are rare.

“The vast majority (of teachers) say they feel safe,” she said.

Still, Schaubach said the union has no data on the size of the problem.

“The research they’re doing should be helpful,” she said. “We’re certainly interested in (the results).”