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What Do You Do When a Teacher Threatens to Kill a Student?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? You force the student to transfer to a new school and make sure the teacher doesn’t miss a day of work.

At least that’s what happened in Howard County, writes a frustrated parent to Jay Mathews’ Extra Credit column in the Washington Post:

Our son is a seventh-grader in Howard County. In January of his sixth-grade year, he accidentally knocked a binder off of his teacher’s desk. He attempted to reassemble the papers but was not able to do so, so he reported this to the teacher (despite his classmates encouraging him to keep it quiet). When he told the teacher, she expressed frustration, and he thought that was the end of it.

Unfortunately, she was still upset the next day and made the following announcement to another math class, “Tell K. not to come near me if I have a knife, because I will kill him!” As soon as class was dismissed, the students ran up to him, excitedly reporting what she had said.

That evening we called the police, who took reports from the kids who witnessed this, and then met with the teacher and principal. We said we would not allow our son to return to the school as long as this teacher remained. We were informed that removing her was not an option. We applied for a transfer, which was granted. Our son missed three weeks of school in the process. The teacher did not miss a day of work (imagine what would have happened to a student if he or she made such a remark!). We requested an apology and have not received one.

The school’s not talking – they never do, citing privacy issues. We’re only getting one side of the story here, but I think you’ll find it as convincing as I did. The teacher probably just has an awful sense of humor; even so, I think this one warrants some discipline. I have a feeling that the student, the family and the offending teacher are all being put in very difficult positions unnecessarily.

You might be surprised at Jay’s advice to the parents who want their son to rejoin his friends when they’re channeled into high school. This one’s worth a read – make sure you scroll down a couple paragraphs past the “Advanced Courses for Everyone” section. It starts under Dear Extra Credit.

4 Responses to “What Do You Do When a Teacher Threatens to Kill a Student?”

  1. Forget appropriate behavior in general. Do these people have no sense of professionalism at all? I can’t imagine saying something like that to students, in front of students, period.

  2. Onemorecup says:

    ‘rightwingprof:’

    I completely agree with your assessment vis-a-vie professionalism. These kinds of comments are just not appropriate in any environment, especially education. However, just as Matthew has pointed out, we are only privy to 50 percent of the event. Just think about this for a moment: You’re getting ready to board an airliner that you know has a 50 percent chance of crashing and a 50 percent chance of making its destination; feel lucky, are you willing to board the plane?

    Anytime I hear where a school’s administration has considered all of the facts, most importantly from the teacher, then outside law enforcement authorities then and only then make an informed decision, it indeed gives me hope for the American public school system. This is an extremely rare case.

    However, at the same time I have some questions as well. I am curious as to why it took the parents six to seven months to write the letter? The incident occurred in January of sixth grade, written during seventh grade school year, what was their motivation? The parents also (as seen constantly in American education) never thought of speaking to the adult teacher regarding the comment. So ostensibly what we really have are two frustrated parents who didn’t get their way, and decided to get their pound of flesh, or retribution another way.

    This scenario, given the evidence we have, most likely played out something more like this: Rule #1- The teacher’s desk is off limits and out-of-bounds. No student should ever be mulling or lingering around the teacher’s desk for anything AND I am sure this was the rule. Rule #2- Never, ever touch anything on the teacher’s desk; Rule #3- There should never be a reason to touch anything on the teacher’s desk; see Rule #1. Rule #4- Never, ever be in the classroom with a teacher present.

    The scenario as given by the student to his parents states: “…he accidentally knocked a binder off of his teacher’s desk. He attempted to reassemble the papers but was not able to do so, so he reported this to the teacher (despite his classmates encouraging him to keep it quiet). Interpretation: Messing around at the teacher’s desk probably looking for either grade book or exam results; inadvertently knocked over the binder and couldn’t get it back the way it was; at the encourage of his ‘friends’ he was advised NOT to say anything or ‘we’re all going down…” Teacher comes back from break, lunchroom duty, toilet, whatever, and just before discovers book and other items are rearranged on her desk, the student comes forward with his ‘grand’ confession. The teacher was done with it.

    Now, that should cover it. The parents we’re told by their sixth-grade son; didn’t try to contact the teacher for clarification (simply took the son’s word without consulting the adult) contacted police—I can see the pandemonium now! Kids screaming everything from “slash, gut, murder, kill, death,” you name it. However, the following morning when the same police were able to speak to the teacher and administrator’s not a single person was charged vis-a-vie a crime had not been committed.

    One last bit…if it had been my classroom, and such reckless disregard for the classes posted rules, I would have asked administration for a mandatory 3-day suspension for the child. This student during the course of approximately 15 or so minutes managed to break 4 Class Rules not to mention he was lying through his teeth.

    Pursuant to your first comment: We can never “Forget appropriate behavior, ‘in general’” from anyone.

    OMC aka J.P. Schilling

  3. tjd says:

    The parent says, “imagine what would have happened to a student if he or she made such a remark!”

    Every day a student threats a teacher in my school. Today, I asked a new student politely to be quiet over 9 times in a span of 4 minutes. I was teaching the students algebra. The student would not be quiet, while everyone else was being quiet. Then, as I asked him politely to be quiet again, he yelled at me “You BITCH MOTHERFUCKER”. I took that as a threat and I filed a report and I asked to have him changed to another teacher.
    But, i was told by the school police and the admin team that nothing will happen. They may change his class period from my 2nd class to my 5th period class, but I still have to teach him 2 hours a day. He will not be arrested and he will not be suspended.
    I really hope that he does not bring a weapon to school.
    I also think he should be punished for what he did. I hope that he gets the same treatment our parents would have given us (a severe paddling) . He needs to be punished for what he did, and that punishment must hurt or else it is not effective. That is how punishment works.
    If he brings a weapon, which I expect he will, I am stuck in a bad place. If I touch him in the process of disarming him, I will lose my job. If I do nothing, I will be just one of the countless teachers assulted by students.
    Oh, did I tell you he is labeled emotionally disturbed, I have no helper, he has a history of violence at school ,we have no separate class for the emotionally disturbed at our school, and his mom just went to jail two days ago? Now he lives with an aunt until mom gets out of jail.
    If ,as teenagers, we yelled at our teacher in class “Bitch Mother fucker” we would be paddled by the administrator, hit by our parents and thrown out of the school.

    So, when I hear the story about the binder, it is true that the teacher over reacted. However it may also be true that the sweet child in question is a total asshole and the school is glad to be rid of him. Parents all agree that “teenagers lie,” but they also say “but not my teenager to me.” My daughter is 20 years old. I was the same, thinking sh did not lie to me. There is a lot of lying going on and a lot of kids that act so cool to their parents are total assholes in the classroom.
    If your child was innocent and the teacher is the total asshole, then I am sorry that he had to have such a hard time and I hope the best for him.

  4. Tracy says:

    This happened to my son Just this past winter He was threatened by a teacher in frot of a whole class and another teacher as well
    But the school board decided that there was not enough eveidence to fire her what can I do to protect my children from such things

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