Over at NYC Educator's place, there have been several posts about whether teachers should break up fights. NYC and other noble souls in that area tell us that they have been instructed NOT to intervene, and that if they get injured the DOE will not support them.
I wonder what the correlation is between this kind of policy and how many fights there are? I wonder if the viciousness of the fights that do occur is affected by this type of policy, of which certainly the students must be aware.
My school district aims the other direction. The last time I broke up a fight, I got hugged. By the principal. And the slugger's mom. And the slugger's dad. And by the way? I could have lived without those last two, since I felt that my yearly quota for physical contact with that family was already gravely exceeded.
Once a kid with "little man" syndrome, let's call him the Elf, smacked a BIG GUY upside the head at the lockers. Apparently, the Elf had been picking on BIG GUY all day. BIG GUY lost it and within five seconds had punched the Elf about four times and shoved him back through a doorway into my petite, 50ish friend, who was just walking toward her doorway. BIG GUY then had the Elf on the ground kicking him in the torso and the head.
Several kids ran and got me. A guy I taught with stood there softly chanting "stop" sotto voce. Yeah, that was effective. And he had witnessed his colleague being levelled.
I did my Voice of God "HEY! STOP!"-- BIG GUY looked up, and I put both my hands in the center of his chest and firmly but steadily pushed him off the Elf and back into a classroom. Did I mention that the Elf had a seizure disorder? No? Well, no WAY was I going to watch him getting kicked in the head, no matter how much he may have goaded the other kid.
So I broke BIG GUY out of his rage by asking him if he knew who I was. He blinked, mumbled, "Ms. Cornelius....." and suddenly got teary-eyed. I asked him if he was done, and he said yeah, and the other kids in the room began talking to him about cooling down and comforting him, because he really wasn't at heart a fighter.
I turned back, and the Elf was actually getting up off the ground to try to get a second helping of ass-whupping. So, keeping my eye on BIG GUY, who was now out of harm's way, we decided to keep the Elf on the ground, since he was far more dangerous on his feet.
Upshot? Suspensions for both, twice as long for the Elf as instigator, and we only had one more fight on the hallway the rest of the year, and no one was seriously hurt. It was all on videotape, so there was no question who had started it.
We never know what could happen to a kid in a fight. They could fall and fracture their skulls. They could bleed all over the place. They could break every bone in their hands. They could pull out bloody hanks of scalp and cause permanent nerve damage. I don't just fly in there uncontrollably. I once felt bad vibes when I walked in a hallway while I was subbing, and I turned around, walked right out, and got the cop. If I see an opportunity to intervene safely, I reserve the right to make that judgment for the greater good, and I do have a bit of training. I realize that I am taking a chance, but I have never seen our district not support a teacher trying to make the environment safer for everyone.
And kids rarely fight near me.
I can't imagine being told to just watch kids assault each other.