Breaking up fights.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by lovebeingteach, May 12, 2012.

  1. lovebeingteach

    lovebeingteach Companion

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    May 12, 2012

    I teach in a middle school. Some of the kids are bigger than I am. Thankfully, I have not been around during any of the many fights that our students have been involved in this year. However, if I were around, I am not sure how much help I would be. Our school has no clear "response system" to use for fights. I know that teachers are expected to "step in" and break up the fights. The problem is: The kids do not stop fighting when an adult steps in. We had a teacher get her arm broken just last week by a student when she was trying to break a fight up. I wonder if I could get in trouble if I did not break up the fight, but just called the office for help? What is it like at your school?
     
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  3. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    If there was a fight in my school, teachers would not be expected to break it up. Honestly, I wouldn't be able to--I'm not strong enough. I have never been placed in this situation, but wouldn't get involved.

    I think it's unfair to expect it of teachers.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I would never intervene in a physical fight. Ever. They don't pay me enough money to risk my own safety. Besides that, there have been cases in the past where a student involved in a fight has been injured by an adult who intervened--purely accidentally, I'm sure, but the adult has been held liable.

    I will call for help using the phone or panic button, and I will tell other kids in the area to move away from the action so that they aren't hurt, but I won't ever step into the middle of a fight.

    At our school when there are big fights, the school police officers will come out with huge canisters of pepper spray. They're like industrial-sized canisters, about three times as big as a fire extinguisher. We teachers know that when you see those canisters come out, you run in the other direction. Frankly, if a school police officer isn't going to risk bodily injury breaking up a fight, I shouldn't be expected to either.
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I would send this issue to our steering committee. You could get hurt in a fight or you could end up inadvertently hurting someone with flailing limbs.
     
  6. CanukTeach

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    May 12, 2012

    We are told NOT to get in the middle of fights. Now teachers do anyway and have gotten hurt doing it. I will not. I will yell at students. Most of the time that works. If it doesn't, I run for help.
     
  7. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    May 12, 2012

    When I was in high school, the teacher I had for AP US and Sociology was the one who broke up fights. Now, she's a 50-year-old woman who's maybe 5'6". And yes, she broke up any and all fights. She would simply quiet the crowd (if there was one), and would get as close as possible without being put in harm's way, and then she would yell at the top of her lungs "STOP IT RIGHT NOW". And the kids would stop, every single time, with enough time for either another student or adult to grab both of the kids.

    I'm convinced she's magic :haha:.
     
  8. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    May 12, 2012

    Because of the age that I work with (upper elementary) I would not hesitate to break up a fight. I tell kids all the time, my number one job at school is to keep them safe.
     
  9. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    The idea of breaking a fight honestly terrifies me.

    I already hate it when boys slam each other jokingly into lockers--a fight isn't something I can handle.
     
  10. Catcherman22

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    May 12, 2012

    I break up a fight ONLY in the case where it really isn't a "fight" and one person is clearly getting the snot kicked out of them.
     
  11. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Our policy is to call for security and let them handle it. We are to verbally tell them to stop, but not to attempt to physically break it up.
     
  12. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I don't care if school policy states I am to physically intervene: I will not if I feel it's at all risky.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    We haven't had one in a good 20 years, knock wood.

    But I've broken up one or two in my day. The WORST are the girl fights; the guys tend to stop if a teacher-- particularly a woman-- gets involved. Not the girls.
     
  14. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    At my school we have an excellent system in place for fights - but only because they can and will happen at any time. I actually feel safer here, than I would at any other school.

    The kids are trained to duck on the ground, on their knees, face on knees, arms covering head at the sound of 'Cover!'
    If there's any problem, that's all we have to do, and they drop. Sometimes, I was told the ones fighting ignore it in the heat of the moment, but at least everyone is on the ground, probation is right outside the door and they will hear a yell like that. They'll come in and handle it (I don't like the way they handle it, but at least they're there).

    We are not to break up any fights, I wouldn't even try it. The first - only - fight I had in my classroom happened so fast I didn't know what to do, I certainly forgot to yell 'cover'. All I saw was a 6 foot teenager backing into me, because the one in front of him was going at him. I kept backing up, until I fell unto the desk by the wall, leaving a huge bruise on the back of my thigh. I blocked him with my arm, and then I got the heck out of there. The whole thing happened in 30 seconds. By the time I got to the door probation was already running in and they maced everyone. (that part of the procedure I'm not happy with).

    So now the worst have happened, but I still didn't get used to yelling 'cover'. A few weeks later one kid got up, went up to another one, real fast, I don't know if he was going to fight him, but it sure looked like it. Perfect time to call cover. I actually didn't get scared, I just raised my voice almost to the point of yelling and said "sit down!!" "SIT DOWN!!!. He sat, there was no fight. This was just a reflex, but I realized that I was no longer intimidated by any of this. I later remembered that I mumbled under my breath - without realizing - 'don't fxxk with me', and the kids who heard me didn't even laugh because they saw how mad I was.

    Another fight was in the making, again, I'm just not used to the whole 'cover' thing, so raised my voice, and asked 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" Actually walked up to him, don't know why. He sat down. I did tell probation and the other teachers to keep an eye on them, because they might actually have a fight in another classroom. They did fight.
     
  15. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    May 12, 2012

    lovebeingteach - They expect us to break-up fights in our school. And they'll even figure it into your annual evaluation if they catch you not intervening.

    I decided a long time ago to take my chances and NOT break up fights. There were two things that pushed me in that direction:

    A guy I used to teach with was a math teacher and there was a city-wide inservice one day, broken up by subject. He came across this 23-year-old first year teacher with a huge scar down the side of his face. Somehow or another, it came up in discussion and the young man said, "I was breaking up a fight and one of them pulled out a switchblade during the altercation and cut me down the side of the face." He'll have that scar the rest of his life and no doubt the administrators probably referred to him as a "fool" behind his back.

    The second item that influenced me was an older teacher who told me about a fight he was trying to break up and got hurt in the process. The health insurance company that covered us said they did not have to pay his medical bills because what he did was not in his job description.

    The route I've taken to cover myself is stay wherever I'm located, say, "Hey, stop!" and then see if I can get someone acting as security to come down to my room.


    :mad:
     
  16. stargirl

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    May 12, 2012

    At my very first job (inner city elementary school), a kindergarten teacher told me that one time she was trying to break up a fight between two students, one happened to have been holding a pair of scissors and she ended up getting stabbed in the ankle. She was severely injured, had to be out on leave for awhile but did not qualify for disability pay--she tried taking it to court, and the judge said, "where does it say in your contract that you're supposed to break up fights?" and, needless to say, ruled against her.
     
  17. greendream

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    May 12, 2012

    I have not and will not attempt to break up a fight. I once had a girl totally lose it on another girl during class. She was swinging those claws like a wolverine and I called the office for help. I was stunned when the admin asked me why I didn't break it up.

    Seriously? I'm not going to risk getting hurt, hurting a student inadvertently, having the student say I touched them inappropriately, etc. They don't pay me enough to be a bouncer.
     
  18. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I can't believe some schools would expect teachers to break up a fight. That's not safe and it's wrong for several reasons, as you guys have mentioned it.
    The last post mentioning not putting hands on a student brings up another point. We are NOT supposed to put our hands on students, so how would breaking up a fight fit into that? They could definitely claim you hit them, etc.

    Spin off of the putting hands on students. At my school, when a student goes home, (especially a nice one lol), I give them a hug. This is a should-to-shoulder type hug, or an arm around should hug, nothing even near inappropriate. Some of the other teachers do this, too. I never thought it was wrong.
    This past week the probation supervisor came in, and told me that the staff saw that I did that (it was in the courtyard, I was definitely not alone with the kid) and they understand why I did it, but I needed to write a statement. That was weird. He said anytime they put their hands on a student, for whatever reason, they have to write a statement to be safe, so the kid can't complain later, etc. (the student didn't complain, it was just that probation saw it).
    It totally makes sense, but it was weird, after all this time.

    Two more students went home that day, and I gave them both hugs, but I didn't want to bring that up. I mean, one of this kid has been in my classroom since October, every day. He was the sweetest guy, never any trouble (in fact, he got to go home this week instead of August for good behavior). He called me mom, he confided in me about his little baby, the baby's mom, the things they went through, etc. On the last week they often actually work (maintenance, clean, etc.) instead of school work, but he asked to come to class to say good by. How can I not give him a hug? (again, a normal, air- hug) ??
     
  19. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 12, 2012

    This is exactly what I suggest. Most of the time one or both would be relieved to be told to stop. Use a big voice and pretend you are not scared, but do not physically get involved.

    You can tell the other kids watching to dispurse.




    Favorite Teacher Blogs:
    http://ed-is-life.blogspot.com/ and http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/
     
  20. MathTeacher29

    MathTeacher29 Rookie

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    May 13, 2012

    We are to call for help and keep the other students safe. However the male teachers in the building are expected to come running and pull the students apart. I've been lucky that other students have pulled their friends apart before the fight got to bad.
     
  21. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    A stronger, younger TeachOn broke up a couple at my previous school. Fortunately, we don't have them where I work now. About five years ago a girl slapped a boy in the caf. He deserved it, evidently, since both served ISS. The only boy-boy actual fight I remember was about 15 years ago. The Latin teacher, a little grey-haired woman, broke it up, which should give you some idea of the limited ferocity of our thuggish elite. It was more of a chins-up whapfest to be honest.

    I love my school; it's so delightfully unreal.
     
  22. BumbleB

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    I have broken up two fights during my first year of teaching. Honestly, at the time, I'm never thinking about my safety or the "what ifs" that could happen as a result of my intervention. I just do it to keep the kids safe. Reading everyone's posts has made me rethink things, and I will be approaching my administration for guidance about breaking up fights. We have no security in the building, so if we have to wait for an administrator to come up, the kids might be fighting for a while :/
     
  23. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    When I was training back in '89 the first school I went to for teaching practice was in a pretty rough area. as students we were supposed to ask all sorts of questions, the answers to which would form the basis for an assignment. I interviewed the Deputy head (Vice P in your terms). One of the questions was 'What would you do if you walked into a room and two large boys were having a viscious fight'? She replied 'Walk out, close the door and come back when one of them was dead'!

    In my first job I walked into a changing room for a PE lesson where two boys were having a real ding dong, urged on by the rest of the class. In those days I played Rugby and of course was a lot younger than I am now. Without thinking I grabbed both boys by the hair, pulled them apart and then held them at arms length until the stopped swinging at each other.

    At the same school a fight broke out between two large boys. One of them didn't want to fight. A passing teacher grabbed the assailant and was struggling with him. A colleague came over and tried to help restrain the boy, eventually there were 4 of us, each holding onto a limb pinning the boy down until he stopped flailing!

    Today what would I do? I think I would let them get on with it and just make sure no-one else got hurt.
     
  24. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I think one day I might get socked in the eye. :)
    Today I almost had a fight in my classroom, and instead of getting out of there, or doing something reasonable, I went right up to them, almost between them to let them know they weren't gonna fight :)
    My desks were set up in one big square, these 2 guys were sitting on the corner, kind of facing each other. One said something to the other, he answered back and it went from there. As soon as I heard what was happening, without thinking, I went up right between them, asking what was going on, and that I didn't feel like breaking up a fight in there, so let's not get started.

    At that moment I was thinking "what the heck am I doing?" as I physically felt the tension between them. I was thinking, if one guy punches another, what am i gonna do? This is dumb. They stared at each other, I stared at them, and then I backed up, but asked one guy if he wanted to take a break outside for a few minutes, without any consequences. He said yes. So he sat out for 5 minutes, when he came back I sat him across the room.

    There was nothing else going on, but I did give probation a note saying that something might happen later.
    The bigger guy (who has been nothing but cooperative and respectful in my classroom) asked if it was about him and fighting.
    I honestly told him what it said, and that I didn't care, and I wouldn't even speculate who started it, who said what to whom, because I'll never know the truth. So I thought probation should know, so they can keep them away from each other, for their own protection. They seemed very happy with that. I hope nothing happened later.
     
  25. FourSquare

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    Oh, I get between them all the time. But my kids are younger. Sometimes I just let them go at it and call security like I'm supposed to. Sometimes it's just not worth it.
     
  26. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I broke up a fight this year. It was a first and last time for me, though. I got kicked in the head when the two boys were struggling on the ground. The boys (two 8th graders) were both bigger (in both height and weight) than me, too! :(
     
  27. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I have always worked in very good schools with very little fights. I have and will break up fights, we do not have security and our administrators are usually on the opposite side of the school. Usually, just a hey stop that will keep them from doing it.
     
  28. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    My high school barely had any fights, but I've never seen a teacher break one up.
     
  29. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I will always break them up. I don't let anyone get away with creating that kind of environment at my school.

    All of the "they don't pay me enough" comments are frankly a bit odd. They don't pay me to be a good person outside of my workplace so I don't see why it should matter here. I'm not going to let two kids fight at the local movie theater either.
     
  30. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Fights at my school are almost unheard of. I can't think of more than 2 or 3 in the 7 years that I've been there. I'm probably not "supposed" to intervene, but can't imagine just standing and watching. We don't have security and, depending where the fight was happening, it could take several minutes for an administrator to arrive.

    I did break up one fight at my previous school. One of my grade 4 boys (with an explosive temper) had another boy down on the ground and had hit him quite hard a couple of times. I ran across the pavement, yelling all the way, "Kyle, stop! Kyle, stop!". When I got to him, I put my hand on his arm and was greeted with a fist stopping about a foot from my face as he realized who it was. He burst into tears and collapsed in my arms.
     
  31. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    I know my dad used to break up fights at his high school, but he's a 3rd degree black belt.

    I have attempted at times, especially when a particular duo of 3rd graders one year tried to go at it everyday in my class but will not do so anymore. Admin was no help that year. But I realized when I was out on medical leave for stomach issues and anxiety issues that it wasn't worth it. I asked to be trained in "handle with care" but never was. Now I just call for help and move the other kids away, but it rarely happens around me. My kids tend to fight during recess when I'm not around if they do it at all.
     
  32. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Odd or not, it's true that I don't get paid enough to risk my own safety breaking up a fight. I would consider that hazard pay, and it's not something that's factored into my salary.

    At my school, many students have weapons. I'm not about to get shanked or shot or bludgeoned for being a "good person". I guess if it therefore makes me a a "bad person" to avoid breaking up a fight, then so be it. I think that the implication that I am a "bad person", or at least not a "good person", is unfounded, hurtful, and insulting, but I suppose you're free to believe what you will.

    I think that it's important to remember that we all teach in different environments. What works in one school may not work in another, and vice versa. There are schools where it's effective enough to yell at kids to stop fighting or to stand in between them. At my school, that sort of action will almost always get ignored by students. It's a different school climate with different student populations.
     
  33. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    ^ That. Absolutely.

    I have never been hurt, but a few years ago I was holding a boy after stopping a fight and was roughed a little bit from his shoving and agtempt to break free of me to get back into the fight. I consider myself lucky and would NOT do the same today. The children would have to be clearly smaller ans weaker...most middle school students are sizable enough that I'm not stepping in.
     
  34. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    May 17, 2012

    Same here. I wouldn't break up a fight at the movie theater either. Too much of a chance of getting stabbed or shot. And I don't think this makes me in any way a bad person.
     
  35. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I would consider it to be unprofessional, unethical, and legally dangerous for a school to expect teachers not trained in physical crisis intervention to use such techniques with students. That being said, there is a difference between restraint and attempting to break up a fight, and I would expect teachers to use some strategies, though not all, to break up a fight. For example, verbal strategies would of course be expected, and - with a small amount of training - I think teachers could be expected to attempt to lead one student away from another student, if deemed safe by the teacher.

    So, if the teacher felt safe, s/he could insert an open palm in between the students, and attempt to steer the aggressee away from the fight without using any restraint technique. However, it would need to made clear that if the student resisted, the teacher should not use more physically coercive means to attempt to counter resistance, but to continue to wait for the crisis intervention team/administration/SRO to show up.

    While the idea of students carrying weapons is of concern, that concern is always present, and the risk of a student using a weapon on a teacher is also present even when no fight is occurring, so I wouldn't say that the mere possibility of a weapon would be enough to keep a teacher from using sensible techniques which the teacher had been trained how to use, and deemed to be safe given an overall appraisal of the situation. Of course, if a weapon was observed, that clearly becomes unsafe.
     
  36. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    May 17, 2012

    Another 2 guys almost got into it today. They were sitting right next to each other and exchanged some nasty words. I stood far from them, in front, they were the 3-4th row. I could FEEL the tension between them, they stared at each other, at arms length, waiting for the first one to start.
    I had to use my words, asked them to stop, and one kid to move up front. He refused. I asked him 3 times, told him I was asking nicely, but I can always find another way. It took me to walk all the way to the door to get probation, by the time he decided to get up and move seats.

    Something's going down soon, the kids are filled with anger. There's nowhere to channel their energies.

    This was about something silly, I think the textbook. I talked to some guys about fights during next period, and one of the wanna-fighters was there. They told me stories having huge fights over something as stupid as a muffin (their snack). They said it's not about the muffin, it's the principle. They cannot look weak, they have to stand up for their 'values'. If they back down, this reputation will follow them outside of the lock up, and they'll be finished. For street kids this is a huge deal.
    So when they fight, it's not about the muffin, or the textbook, or the pencil, it's about them fighting for their 'homies', their neighborhood and reputation.
    I told them I totally understand it, but don't agree with it, and in the end, it's not worth it.
     
  37. stenbob11

    stenbob11 Rookie

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    May 20, 2012

    As a high school student, we're told not to break up fights against other students as the school doesn't want us getting hurt.

    My school HAS had student's who attempted to break up fights but I don't know the result of it.

    If we break up a fight between other students, I don't think we'll get in trouble because we were only trying to keep the school safe. I WOULD break up a fight if it occurred in an area where there's no staff aware of it. But I doubt that I would get in any trouble other than a big 'Thank You'. The only problem is that if I get to a point where I have to keep hold onto them until I get to an administrator, it can cause problems as other staff and students is going to end up thinking that I'm pulling on them or otherwise, inappropriatly touching them.
     

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