In a recent article, a Riverview Community High School teacher is accused of assaulting a student which could have ended in a teacher student fight. The accusation has resulted in a formal lawsuit against the school district. Riverview Community High School teachers can avoid teacher student fights by promoting positive teacher student classroom relationships.

According to the article, the school community was attempting to promote physical contact between teachers and students by having a “Free Hug Day”. The problem occurred when a student attempted to hug computer-aided design teacher Donald Ukrainec. When Ukrainec responded in opposition to the students efforts, other students in the classroom surrounded the teacher in an effort to continue the spirit of forging positive relationships with teacher and students. Ukrainec eventually kicked one student and hit another student with his fist. The efforts by the school to enhance teacher student relationships failed miserably for several reasons.

One of the major reasons that the Riverview School efforts to eliminate teacher student fights failed are associated with standing distance requirements. Colleges teach teachers to ensure there is a distance between themselves and the students so the teacher can maintain discipline in the classroom. European Americans are more likely to have close social distance with Mexican Americans when compared to Blacks and prefer to keep their personal space at arm’s length. Hispanic Americans stand close to or side by side instead of face-to-face when talking to another person. Hispanic Americans stand 6 to 8 inches within an arm’s length when talking to another person. Latinos interact at a close distance and frequently touch one another. Latino Americans prefer closer standing distances when compared to North Americans. Most Hispanics and non-Hispanic participants agree that Hispanics feel rejected when people back away from them. Blacks prefer closer social distance when compared to Mexican Americans. Blacks are more likely to touch each other in a conversation when compared to Whites. Individuals who perceive a proximity violator as someone who will provide them with negative rewards will react negatively when the proximity violator moves closer. Maintaining the appropriate or comfortable proximity is associated with a positive effect, friendship, and attraction.

Another major reason that the Riverview school efforts to eliminate teacher student fights failed is associated with providing students with criticism rather that praise. The lawsuit alleges that the teacher called the students disparaging names. Negative criticism, embarrassment, and humiliation are the most frequent acts that damage teacher-student relationships. Criticism decreases student performance too.

Some teachers implement criticism according to ethnicity. White teachers direct more criticism toward Black males and rate Black male children personalities more negatively compared to White male children. White teachers perceive White students more positively compared to Black students. High prejudiced White teachers are less pleased with Black students compared to low prejudiced White teachers. White teachers show a heightened hostility toward brighter Black children. White teachers interact with White gifted and nongifted students more than with gifted and nongifted Black students. In a middle-class White school, White teachers perceived that White student inattention revealed that teachers need to arouse student interest. However, White teachers perceived that the same behavior in Black students resulted from boredom due to limited attention span. Teachers can enhance teacher student relationships by using praise.

A final reason that the efforts of the Riverview School efforts to avoid teacher student fights failed is due to a lack of appropriate leadership. Building a strong positive community is an important component for eliminating teacher student fights. Systems Thinking provides a leadership opportunity to promote positive teacher student classroom relationships. Systems thinking includes personal mastery, mental models, shared visions, and team building. However, Systems Thinking transformation attempts can result in organizational defensive routines. One response to organizational defensive routines is to establish pilot groups. Unless there is some kind of pilot group, new ideas in an organization have no incubator or no place where the transformation can become successful.

The Riverview School has failed in its efforts to eliminate teacher student fights due to a faulty design with their transformational efforts.

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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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“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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