College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Susan D. McMahon, PhD

Second Advisor

Megan R. Greeson, PhD


Violence in school settings is a global phenomenon. Research tends to focus on peer-to-peer student aggression, however teacher-directed violence in school settings by various aggressors is also being explored to better understand the scope of school violence (Bounds & Jenkins, 2016; McMahon et al., 2014; Ozdemir, 2012; Sundaram, 2016; Werthein, 2003; Zeira et al., 2004). Few studies have focused on special education teacher experiences with violence, and their differing experiences from their general education counterparts. This mixed-methods study examines the extent to which general and special education teachers experience teacher-directed violence, as well as incorporates an ecological lens to contextualize special education teachers’ most upsetting types of violent experiences. Data were collected via a national survey distributed across pre-K-12th grade teachers in the United States. Quantitatively, binomial logistic regression was utilized to assess victimization of 2,363 special and general education teachers. Qualitatively, this study used directed content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) informed by ecological systems theory to explore the most upsetting victimization experiences of 430 special education teachers. The unique experiences of special education teachers in relation to their ecological context and intersectional identities were examined. Results reveal that special education teachers have a higher likelihood of experiencing victimization across multiple aggressors and student aggressors than their general education counterparts, with general education teachers more likely to experience parent-perpetrated aggression. Further, special education teachers often attributed their most upsetting experiences to issues at the organizational (school), community, and macro levels- indicating that violence was often a byproduct of larger systems issues. When examining experiences at the interpersonal level, special education teachers in the sample rarely discussed identity-facets in relation to their experiences with violence, but those that did often cited gender and ability status. Results indicate that policy changes be made at the federal, state, district, and school levels around student placement, resource allocation, and teacher training. Findings also suggest that intervention strategies at the community level aimed to increase equity, and at the school and community levels to promote family involvement in schools may reduce teacher-directed violence in special education. Next steps for research, measurement, and future directions are identified and discussed.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons