In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the victimization of staff members by students. Studies have indicated that the prevalence of verbal and physical victimization is not negligible and has a significant negative impact on teachers, students, and schools. The school safety literature has overlooked, however, the victimization of students by staff members, despite numerous studies in the child welfare literature that documented significant levels of such victimization with many negative consequences.
This study examines patterns of students-to-teachers and teachers-to-students mutual victimization and the relationships among these phenomena, both on the student and the school level. The study compares the findings by gender, age, and ethnic and cultural affiliations.
The study employed a nationally representative sample of 26,136 students in 484 schools, and a sample of 1,913 teachers in 415 schools stratified by school level and ethnic/cultural educational stream (Jewish-Secular, Jewish-religious, and Arab). Both students and teachers responded to a school climate structured survey includin sections on student-teacher victimization in last month.
The findings indicate that students reported being victimized by their teachers more than they reported being the perpetrator of violence against them. Students reported experiencing much more verbal victimization than physical and sexual victimization, e.g., 14.7% were humiliated by a teacher while 5.3% were pushed or shoved, and 4.2% received sexual comments from a teacher in the last month. They also report that they victimized teachers emotionally and verbally (6.2%) more than physically (1.8% pushed-shoved a teacher). These patterns of the relative prevalence of various victimization types were quite similar across the three cultural groups. Teachers also reported being victimized verbally-emotionally more than physically (e.g., 14.2% reported that a student cursed or humiliated them and 1.2% were kicked or punched in the last month). Arab students and teachers reported more victimization compared to the two Jewish groups. On a school level there were variations that indicated that while some schools were free of most types of student-teacher victimization, other schools experienced very high levels of such victimization. Significant associations were found between reports of students victimizing teachers and teachers victimizing students at both the individual and school level across all three cultures. The school-level correlations were consistently higher than the individual levels.
There is ample evidence that teacher-student mutual victimization has negative impact on students, teachers, and schools. We argue that currently these two types of victimization are addressed separately, while the findings indicate they are highly interrelated. As such, the findings suggest that interventions should address the school's climate as a whole, improving teacher-student relationships. From a theoretical point of view, both types of victimizations should be seen as embedded in the context of the school and their inter-relationships should be examined as part of understanding the internal contexts of the school as they interact with external contexts, such as ethnicity and cultural affiliation. Future studies need to identify the specific mechanisms that connect teachers victimization of students and the students victimization of their teachers.