In a recent article, a teacher was fired for breaking up a student fight. In many school districts it is the responsibility of either administrators or security to create a safe culture for students and staff members. Teachers who have established positive relationships with students will have a greater possibility of breaking up student fights.

According to the article, the teacher who broke up the student fight is suing the school because she was terminated. During the fight in her classroom which was allegedly among gang members the teacher used a broom to break up the student fight.

The teacher has since filed a lawsuit claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of her Fourth and Fourteen Amendments, civil rights violations, and disparate treatment. She further ascertains that prior to her hiring she was never told that the culture of the school involved a high quantity of student fights. She was never handed an employee handbook and did not receive any training for diffusing volatile situations that involve students.

Why is using a broom to break up student fights illegal?

Any teacher that makes a decision to break up a student fight can not use a broom or any other apparatus because it is considered battery.

According to Wikipedia, battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the act of creating apprehension of such contact.

In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful, offensive or sexual contact. It is a specific common law misdemeanor, although the term is used more generally to refer to any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person, and may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Battery was defined at common law as “any unlawful touching of the person of another by the aggressor himself, or by a substance put in motion by him.” In most cases, battery is now governed by statutes, and its severity is determined by the law of the specific jurisdiction.

In Michigan, where the incident happened, simple Assault and Battery is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and no more than $500 in fines. There are circumstances where this potential punishment can be increased.

Even though some schools have opted to give teachers the right to break up student fights, it is best that teachers ensure that they do not commit battery against students.

What strategies can teachers use to break up student fights?

The best way to have the power to break up student fights is to develop positive relationships with students.

Positive Teacher Student Relationships

Positive relationships at schools are in many ways the prerequisites for effective student behavior. Teachers develop positive relationships with students by engaging them in personal and meaningful dialogue that includes personal and nonacademic issues such as student interests, goals, aspirations, likes and dislikes, family, and culture. Good teacher-student relationships include teachers communicating to students that they care about them. Teachers who are caring, friendly, helpful, understanding, and dependable foster supportive relationships with their students.

Teachers develop positive teacher-student classroom relationships in four stages.

  • Stage One – Teachers and students develop relationships by initiation that begins the moment students walk into the classroom. During this stage, teachers start to form impressions that may be difficult to change, and students develop expectations regarding teachers.
  • Stage Two – The second stage for teacher-student relationship development is experimenting. During this stage, teachers begin to collect information about the students that may influence future instructional strategies. Students experiment with the teacher by trying to sort out teacher dislikes and likes, classroom instructional and disciplinary boundaries, and teacher grading biases. Teachers and students find ways to manage their relationship with one another.
  • Stage Three – The third stage for teacher-student relationship development is intensifying. During this stage, teachers and students make communication choices based on individual rather than stereotypical roles. Teachers begin to communicate care for students and circumstances that will enhance or constrain learning.
  • Stage Four – The fourth stage for teacher-student relationship development is differentiating. During this stage, teachers and students learn about each other.

Teachers who desire to break up student fights must first establish positive relationships with students do that students will grant them the necessary respect and authority.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012



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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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