Teacher survey found more than half have been afraid to go to school because of violence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax surveyed thousands of teachers and found more than half have been afraid to go to school at some point because of violence.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, violence in schools has spiked. Action News Jax teamed with its seven sister stations across the country to survey thousands of educators about the violence against them.


A total of 8,296 teachers in 34 states responded to our survey. Of that, 2,596 of them work in Florida.

The data and clinical research show violence against teachers is on the rise and the ramifications of that affect everyone in education.


Take Joan Naydich, for example. She was a teacher in Flagler County when a 17-year-old special needs student slammed her to the ground and knocked her unconscious last year.

From the stand, Naydich testified in court about the lasting impact the attack has had on her.

Read: National Education Association report ranks Florida 50th for average teacher salaries

“Brendan Depa’s actions on that day has caused me to lose a job that I had for almost nineteen years, have lost my financial security, lost my health insurance, lost the ability to take care of myself like I used to,” she said.

The attack left her with five broken ribs, a concussion and hearing loss. Depa pleaded no contest to a first-degree felony charge for aggravated battery.

“I think that frankly he should pay for what he did,” she testified, “There are consequences in life to bad actions, bad choices.”

Read: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp approves raises and bonuses for K-12 teachers

Though the severity may differ, her story is not uncommon. Data shows more and more teachers are faced with violence in the classroom. Amy Roberts spent 38 years in Duval County schools teaching students with emotional behavioral disorders. She has seen the violence firsthand.

“Anything from just throwing items or flipping a desk,” she said. “Or, you know, being angry. The behaviors can escalate very easily.”

The Florida Department of Education tracks violence in schools, but there isn’t a category to track specifically violence against teachers. So, Action News Jax teamed up to ask teachers about experiences with student violence.


Of the 2,596 teachers who responded from Florida, 65% surveyed said they’ve been subjected to physical violence at least once. And 47% said it happened more than once. For verbal abuse, the results were almost universal at 90%.

Roberts said there are a lot of issues at play including parenting, trauma, and school resources.

“These days, kids come with a whole lot of different experiences coming into the school setting,” she said. “And they’re not necessarily positive. And it’s not always socio-economic either.”

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

Andrew Spar is President of the Florida Education Association.

“I’ve seen it,” he said, “I’ve witnessed it firsthand as a teacher myself. But what we’re hearing from teachers right now is that it’s just out of control.”

Spar said that behavior has consequences that go beyond disciplinary action. He said the workforce has taken a hit because of it.

In fact, the survey shows 53% of Florida teachers surveyed say they’re afraid to go to school because of violence against them. And 58% have considered leaving the profession because of it.


Spar said experienced teachers are leaving at rates they’ve never seen before. After pay, he said student behavior is the number two reason why.

With all the challenges facing educators these days, he said, this problem can’t be ignored.

“The whole teacher and staff shortage is the number one issue that should be concerning every parent, every community person, every voter in the state of Florida,” Spar said.

Spar said teachers need more mental health resources, more support for special needs, and a more consistent approach to discipline. Amy Roberts seconds that.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

“When we were fully funded, we had more manpower,” she said.

She said in her early days in education, “It was really important because children just need more hands-on and contact from the teacher and an assistant or someone in the classroom. And when those needs are addressed, that tends to curb the behaviors.”

Action News Jax reached out to Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns County school districts for a response to the data. Nassau and Clay did not respond.


Safety and security are paramount within our schools for both teachers, students, support staff and administrators.

When deciding what disciplinary action should be taken, several factors are taken into account including the student’s age, exceptionality, previous conduct, probability of recurring violation, intent, attitude, and severity of the offense. Discipline is also imposed in a progressive manner. Our student code of conduct can be found here https://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/schoolservices/conduct/

We are committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment by protecting students and staff from misconduct that poses a serious threat to school safety. The School Board’s policy and procedures for reporting and responding to felony level and other serious offenses are set forth in School Board Rule 5.13- Zero Tolerance for Crimes and Victimization found here https://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/board/rules/

We are always assessing and reviewing our safety protocols within our schools and make adjustments or enhancements each year. We use the Centegix system which is worn by teachers and staff to alert school officials or law enforcement in the event of an emergency situation., more info on that here https://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/sss/safety/


Thank you for reaching out on this important topic. The statewide data you share is sad, but it’s beneficial for the entire community to see. Violence against educators is absolutely unacceptable, and it needs to be taken seriously by everyone including students, parents, and the community. If you review our Code of Conduct, you’ll see that we have two infractions related to the striking of an employee: 3.03 and 3.30. Both result in severe school discipline such as out of school suspension as well as law enforcement involvement. Additionally, at the beginning of this school year, we equipped all school-based personnel with badge-based, alert systems. These can be used to initiate a lockdown as well as to immediately request help if an employee is facing an emergency. We encourage any educator or employee who have concerns about the safety in their work environment to contact their supervisor. Regarding teacher vacancies, there are 314 currently.


Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

Comments on this article

mobile apps

Everything you love about wokv.com and more! Tap on any of the buttons below to download our app.

amazon alexa

Enable our Skill today to listen live at home on your Alexa Devices!