I can say with certainty that emotionally abusive teachers exist. I have met a few both while I was a student and in the time I’ve been a teacher.
However, the legislation that the author of this article is calling for is unrealistic. How can we legislate guidelines of what is and is not considered emotional abuse? Emotional abuse occurs when a powerful person is doing something to cause persistent negative emotions in a weaker person.
So, imagine a teacher who consistently degrades his students as being lazy and stupid. He prefaces every lesson by saying that he knows no one will understand because they were all too lazy to read the chapter last night. He begins every test by saying that he knows everyone will fail because they are just too stupid even to take the test. All of the students hate this teacher and agree he is an awful person. Some of the students believe this teacher and consider themselves to be lazy and stupid. However, some students are resilient enough to prove this teacher wrong. The first group will fail the class. The second group will pass the class. The second group will still have lasting emotional scars from this teacher, but would anyone accuse the teacher of being emotionally abusive to the second group? If he were taken to court, how extensive would his charge and sentencing be? Would the court accuse him of abusing the whole class, or just the students who failed the class? Just the students who showed signs of depression, anxiety, and low self-image?
This is only one perfectly crafted situation that could arise from such legislation, but I can think of many other ways for this legislation to fail our students. Primarily, I believe the good, caring teachers would become afraid to show any sort of disappointment in students’ actual failings. And when good, caring teachers show students that they care about students’ successes and failures, students thrive! What this author really wants to legislate is the extent of care a teacher has for students. Teachers who do not care about their students will be emotionally abusive. And they may never even know it! But teachers who care about their students will build strong character and instill good citizenship.
Legislators who want to tell me how much I can or must care about my students will make me leave the profession.