Teachers ask about . . .breaking up fights

Dec 13, 2005 4:15 PM

Q: As a new teacher, I’m not sure how to handle fighting students. What should I do so no one gets hurt?

A: There are no hard-and-fast rules. However, your school’s safety plan (required by the UFT contract and state law) should say something about how to secure help in a variety of emergencies, including student fights: whom to contact, who is in charge.

Teachers do have a responsibility to maintain their students’ safety and are obligated to try to stop fights or other misbehavior. But the union strongly recommends that you do not put yourself in harm’s way.

First, you should loudly order the students to stop fighting. Send for help immediately, by intercom or phone if possible, or send another staff member or a student. Many schools use a special pass for each classroom which, if carried out of the room, is a code to say that there’s an emergency in that room. A security agent, supervisor or dean can do more than you alone and will serve as a witness if a child is injured.

Then, if help has not arrived and the students are still fighting, use your common sense. But be careful! Breaking up fights is the highest cause of injury to teachers. So try not to intervene physically unless you feel that you must; for example, to prevent serious injury to a student.

If you are injured while trying to intervene in a student battle, the union will assist you if you need help getting the benefits to which you are entitled. So let reason — and caution — guide you when you see flying fists. 1