Minnesota and Wisconsin lag behind the rest of the nation on teacher safety, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
More than 6 percent of Minnesota teachers were reported to have been physically attacked by students during the 2011-12 school year, the most recent year with data available. Wisconsin schools reported 11.3 percent of their teachers were physically abused by students that year — the highest percentage in the country. Minnesota ranked ninth out of the 25 states whose data was adequate enough to compare against. Nationally, the rate of student attacks on teachers stood at 5.8 percent.
Last Friday, a St. Paul Central student assaulted a teacher after the teacher tried to break up a fight. The teacher was diagnosed with a concussion and traumatic brain injury. The attack has reignited interest in the safety of educators in the classroom.
In a 2015 study on school safety published by the U.S. Department of Education, elementary teachers (kindergarten-6th grade in this study) reported being physically attacked by students at a higher rate than secondary (7th-12th grade) teachers — 8 percent versus 3 percent.
Acts of violence against teachers, however, were not the only safety issues reported. In 2011-12, Minnesota schools reported 11.4 percent of their teachers were threatened with physical violence, ranking 11th out of 44 states. Wisconsin ranked third with 13.7 percent. The national rate was 10 percent.
After years of decline, Minnesota’s rate of student-against-teacher violence rose in 2007-08, and remained in that position in 2010-2012. After 4.5 percent of Minnesota teachers were reported to have been physically attacked in 1993-94, the rate fell to 3.6 percent a decade later. By 2007-08, that percentage had risen to 6.5 percent, and maintained that position after the survey was conducted four years later.
The percentages are based on a comprehensive survey the U.S. Department of Education sends to principals or chief security officers. In 2011-12, 10,250 traditional public schools, 750 public charter schools and 3,000 private schools completed the survey.
Dan Bauman can be reached at 651-228-5530. Follow him at @danbauman77.