Teachers ask about . . .breaking
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
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
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