Teacher Slaps Student: A Case of Classroom Stress?

By Botkin-Kowacki, Eva | The Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2016 | Go to article overview

Teacher Slaps Student: A Case of Classroom Stress?


Botkin-Kowacki, Eva, The Christian Science Monitor


A Texas geometry teacher was arrested and charged with assault Friday after a video surfaced in which she appears to be striking a student several times.

The video shows Mary Hastings, a 63-year-old geometry teacher at Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, sweeping papers off a student's desk and slapping him with an open palm five times. The alleged assault was captured in cellphone video during Ms. Hastings' fourth- period math class. According to witness accounts, the student had asked about a grade.

The school district has placed Hastings on leave and issued a statement saying that the district "does not condone employees abusing any child and will not tolerate such conduct."

Students say this attack was uncharacteristic for Hastings.

"She was a really cool teacher," Atyra Deroune, a 10th-grader who witnessed the attack, told 12 News. "It was just that particular day."

Other students spoke to KHOU, a local television station, but the station did not name them. One said "She is a caring teacher.... She cares for her students. But ... students do give her a hard time sometimes."

So what happened?

Most of 31,342 teachers surveyed across the country reported high levels of stress and low levels of autonomy in a May 2015 survey.

"We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and, I'm dating myself here, Tony Soprano," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which conducted the online survey, told The Washington Post. "We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don't do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are in cred ibly stressed out."

The survey was not scientifically valid, but the AFT hopes it will prompt a more scientifically rigorous survey by the US Department of Education and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Stress directly related to the students was not the dominant factor found in the study. Teachers expressed particular anxiety around new initiatives, such as testing and curricula related to the Common Core State Standards. …

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