A majority of K-12 school teachers believe their classrooms are more prone to violence than they were five years ago. Over 55 percent of the teachers surveyed said their schools are more likely to experience disruptive behavior, with 76 percent experiencing verbal confrontations, 65 percent experiencing school fights and 36 percent witnessing abuse of a staff member in the past year.

"This temperature check on violence in American schools reveals that a significant majority of teachers believe that improved training in diffusing and de-escalating situations will help them prevent and safely deal with crisis situations," said Tony Jace, CEO, Crisis Prevention Institute. Over two-thirds of teachers surveyed said they would like to be better prepared to deal with incidents that may occur. "National, state and local policy-makers should take note of the need to provide our school teaching staff with the resources to address situations that might arise," Jace added.

General education teachers surveyed reported they lag behind special education teachers in receiving staff training in dealing with potential classroom violence (43 percent vs. 80 percent). Correspondingly, a significant majority (82 percent) of special education teachers say they feel comfortable that their training equips them to deal with disruptive behavior.

"While the survey points to escalating rates of violence in American schools, the encouraging news is teachers' confidence in making critical decisions in the chaotic moments of crisis situations improve as they receive ongoing skills based training," said Judith Schubert, president, Crisis Prevention Institute. "Despite tightly stretched school budgets, quality in-service training to build competencies in preventing and safely diffusing crisis situations is an imperative in today's school environment."

School safety has received significant national attention, thanks in part to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study identifying hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death resulting from improper use of seclusion and restraint techniques in schools across the nation. In response to the GAO report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote a letter to Chief State School Officers asking them to submit guidelines to ensure sensible policies are in place. Several states have begun this process, reviewing and updating policies and procedures, creating task forces, and in some cases passing legislation.

Key Facts from the Survey

28 percent of general education teachers have had students with weapons present in their school in the last year. 34 percent of teachers cited "fear of litigation" as a factor that has impacted schools' progress in reducing or preventing aggressive incidents.Support from school administration and adequate classroom staffing were cited as the two most effective steps schools can take to address aggressive student behavior.

"This poll confirms that training matters and is the preferred approach to address school violence," said Dr. Randy Boardman, executive director of research and development, Crisis Prevention Institute. "In the wake of recent highly publicized incidents of school violence, it is critical that education policy leaders take concrete steps to ensure that school safety plans are adopted and implemented and that on-going training in violence prevention and intervention are key components of those plans."

Zogby surveyed a representative sample of K-12 special education and general education teachers between September 26 and October 5, 2009; the survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent for general education teachers. Security Blog access the entire survey from Zogby International at http://www.crisisprevention.com/survey/educators-survey-results.asp