Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Teacher Suspended After Pressing Charges Against a Student For Assault

Joel Eisenberg

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That teacher was me. The incident occurred 20 years ago in a Los Angeles school for at-risk youth. Though I was not injured, I pressed charges to teach my student a lesson and was summarily suspended for my troubles.

I was fortunate, and elected not to take action against the school as I was already planning on giving my notice.

See here, however, for an Education Week article on the 2015 case of Michelle Andrews, who suffered permanent nerve damage from an assault on the part of a 6th grader only to be terminated from her school district allegedly for filing similar charges.

The issue of teacher suspensions and terminations as a response to student attacks has become increasingly common since my own incident.

From the Education Week article: Teacher victimization has been an understudied and underpublicized area, experts say. “It’s a tough thing to study,” said Dorothy Espelage, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. “No one wants to talk about that teaching is a hazardous profession, that teachers are at risk when they’re in the classroom. While special educators are more frequently at risk because they work with children who might have severe behavioral issues, teachers of all subjects, of all grade levels, and from all types of schools are at risk for violence.

Teachers in the field today, especially special education teachers, often spend more time as disciplinarians than instructors.

According to a 2018 11 Alive news investigation, referencing an incident in Beaverton, Oregon: The singular incident sheds light on troubling trends taking place at schools nationwide. Teachers report being assaulted by students at high rates, while special needs students are far more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Instead of boosting funding for special education programs, school districts often have fewer staff members year after year.

The joint issues of at-risk school behavior on the part of students, and teachers being punished for taking action to prevent such issues, are frequently underreported.

My Story

I taught special education for nearly 11 years. My population consisted primarily of substance abusers, autistic children and adults, and gang members. During my last year in the profession, well over a decade ago, I was assaulted by a student. He was an intelligent student, and a class leader. He also stood about six feet tall, and weighed slightly over 200 pounds.

By comparison, I am 5’8.

As with many in my class, this student had issues with drugs and alcohol. And fighting. He was consistently fighting, and had been suspended more than once.

On the day of the incident, my student had stood from his seat and started pacing back and forth. He asked the other students to stand and back off; as one they stood against the wall. He asked another student to block the door. The student complied.

My student who was pacing wanted to fight me in response for failing a test.

I asked the student to sit down. He grabbed hold of my desk, tried to flip it, walked to my side and punched me in the jaw.

I composed myself and said, “I’m pressing charges.” He tried to punch me again, but a crisis interventionist managed to get in the room and grab him.

The student who blocked the door told me after the incident that he went out and called for crisis intervention. When he was asked to block the door, he took advantage to help me.


30 minutes later, I sat in the cop car with the student who assaulted me. He was sobbing, and apologetic. He had substantially calmed, and said, “Of all people I can’t believe I did that to you.”

This student and I had a bond. I had him pegged as a leader early, and I tried my best throughout the year to work with him to enhance that quality. He acknowledged as much. I told him I forgive him, but the charges will remain.

The next day I was called into the principal’s office and criticized for not being “better prepared.” I was informed my pressing charges against the student was a “moral violation,” as I was a special education teacher and these were the types of students with whom I had signed to work.

The assistant principal was also in the meeting. She said something about “funding” but I do not recall her exact words.

I was suspended for two weeks, with pay.

During that period I visited my student in jail.



According to other recent news reports, including those referring to a 2021 Slap a Teacher TikTok Challenge, recent assaults have increased country-wide.

Special education teachers, in particular, continue to bear the brunt of conflict: Do they condone such physical and verbal assaults as part of their day-to-day, or do they take action, a response frequently not politically prudent?

Regarding my personal experience in the matter, my student and I had met for the first time in nearly 20 years just prior to the pandemic. I was at a party for a former teacher with whom I had stayed in touch, and was told my old student wanted to speak to me.

After a few phone calls, we agreed to meet for lunch.

He is now working with at-risk students, for a non-profit organization, as a counselor.

I told him I was proud of him. We shook hands, and moved on.

He received his closure, as did I.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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