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Education Expert Says Teachers Should Demand The Right To Refuse Having 'Unsafe' Kids In Their Classroom

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teacher teaching students around desk in classroom

An education philosopher and content creator named Justin Baeder sparked an interesting conversation about how often teachers are bullied and silenced into trying to make it work whenever there's a disruptive and harmful child in their class.

In a TikTok video, Baeder advised that teachers start advocating for themselves and the other students in their classrooms whenever there's a child in the class who isn't in the appropriate placement and is therefore causing a rift in the learning environment.

Baeder said teachers should demand the right to refuse having 'unsafe' kids in their classrooms.

"As educators, I think we've got to start demanding the right to refuse service to students that we cannot serve safely. I think safety has to be the bottom line just as it is in the medical profession," Baeder insisted at the start of his video. He pointed out that in the medical profession, doctors take a Hippocratic Oath to not harm and doctors will refuse service if they cannot perform it safely.



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He explained that if you're on an airplane and there's a medical emergency, if a doctor's on board, they'll administer the correct aide, but they won't just do open heart surgery with a ballpoint pen and cocktail napkins because the environment isn't safe and they don't have the correct tools to ensure that nothing deadly will happen.

Teachers are often in similar circumstances when it comes to safety, especially with their most troubled students.

Baeder recalled receiving an email from a teacher who was at her wit's end because one of her students was physically lashing out at her and the other kids in the classroom. The student would kick and hit others and was already removed from a pregnant teacher's classroom because he was such a danger.

According to Baeder, instead of teachers being aided by administrators when voicing their fear and discomfort, they're told the kid has to stay in the class, no matter what.

Education Expert Says Teachers Should Refuse To Have Unsafe Kids In Their ClassroomPhoto: lisegagne / Canva Pro

"I think at some point, as educators, we have to stand up and demand the right to refuse service and say, 'You know what, if there is not a placement for that child, it's because I'm the cheapest person to inconvenience. It's because somebody is willing to dump the problem on me and as long as I'm willing to go along with that, that solves the problem for other people.'"

Baeder encouraged educators to start refusing to service students deemed as being unsafe, and that while the school admin might not know where to place that student, they won't be allowed in their classroom. It isn't safe for that child, the other kids, or the teacher.

Baeder explained that all of this happens under the guise of 'inclusion,' which doesn't always work.

He claimed that teachers standing up and advocating for themselves will help create the demand for more specialized programs in schools. Through these programs, there are different safety protocols in place, there are more staff who are trained to handle students who need extra attention and can restrain during violent outbursts from kids.

According to the Pew Research Center, which collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics for a report on students in special education, the total number of students in special education went from 3.6 million in the 1976-77 school year, to almost 7.3 million in 2021-22. These students now make up 15% of the K-12 student population across the country, nearly double what it was in the late 1970s.

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However, one of the most challenging aspects of making sure all students in specialized programs are receiving adequate services is the teacher shortage. Per the National Education Association, a staggering 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned.

Baeder explained that without these specialized programs in schools, disruptive and violent behavior is happening in classrooms with 30 children and no aide. Teachers with no special training and no support are just expected to deal with the problem, and all of it, Baeder noticed, is under the guise of "inclusion."



"Inclusion is not a good thing if it is not appropriate for that child — if it is not the least restrictive environment for that child. Least restrictive doesn't mean the least restrictive generally, it means specifically for that child. What does that child need to succeed? And a child who is assaulting people or destroying classrooms, that is not the least restrictive environment for that child."

Providing examples of specific language that teachers can use to speak up, Baeder encouraged teachers to say, "I'm not willing to create the legal and professional and ethical liability that it would create to have the student back in my classroom."

Teachers refusing to service a specific student doesn't mean that student is out of options. The school district should be able to assist with a different set of options. 

A fellow teacher agreed with Baeder's observation and claimed that it was the reason she left the profession last year.

Stitching Baeder's video, a teacher named Daniella Tangie explained that she ended up leaving the profession because her district was incredibly focused on inclusion and allowing students to interact with each other, no matter their behavioral issues. While inclusion can be a great way for students to engage with each other, especially those who are neurodivergent, it isn't always the best plan of action in the long run, particularly for teachers.

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"My last year I had a student who made me fear going to work every day. This student suffered from emotional behavior disorders and would constantly tell me that she had voices in her head telling her to harm me as well as her classmates," Tangie recalled. 



This student had been physically aggressive toward other students, and Tangie pointed out that she wasn't able to intervene because of her short stature. This student had also been held back two grades, so she was already significantly taller and bigger than Tangie.

She explained that every single day, she was terrified that this student would bring a weapon to school to harm the other kids in the class. Whenever Tangie would cry out for help from the school admin, she would have one of two responses, the first being that the school year was almost over, so Daniella should just stick it out.

The other response meant more work for Tangie including having to keep a notebook record of everything this student did. The more she complained and asked for help, the more annoying the school administrators felt she was becoming.

Education Expert Says Teachers Should Refuse To Have Unsafe Kids In Their ClassroomPhoto: DGLimages / Canva Pro

"It seems this student was just getting pushed along in the system until she graduated high school and would be nobody's problem anymore. Having this student in a class of 21 was not fair to me and was not fair to my other co-teacher. I wish I would have advocated for myself more and refused this kind of behavior in my classroom."

Teachers are almost set up to fail from the get-go, from being severely underpaid, underappreciated, and going up against parents, school administration, school districts, and even their own students.

We are failing teachers across the country just because we refuse to listen to their valid complaints and cries for help, especially when they are facing actual danger in their classrooms. 

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.