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Half of high school teachers feel helpless with violent, abusive pupils, and 61 percent said the weakening status of teachers is to blame, according to a recent study. Around 41 percent of teachers also feel unable to handle parents, a recent survey indicates.

Encompassing a representative sample of 400 high school teachers, the survey shows that 62 percent of the teachers have been physically or verbally abused, and almost every teacher has encountered either physical or verbal abuse.

In addition, 89 percent of the teachers have encountered disciplinary problems at school, 58 percent have been verbally abused by pupils, and 53 percent have been verbally or physically abused by parents.

"The physical pain was small compared to the humiliation and embarrassment," said a teacher from the south, who was beaten by a pupil's mother last school year. "I couldn't go back to teach. After the incident, teachers started calling me to tell me about what they had been through - curses, threats and beatings. We're on the edge of an abyss."

The survey also finds that 29 percent of teachers have reported physical abuse against colleagues, 5 percent were assaulted by pupils, and 9 percent suffered damage to personal property.

Since the survey was first conducted five years ago, the rate of teachers who encountered disciplinary problems has remained almost the same. However, the rate of secular teachers exposed to disciplinary problems (94 percent) is significantly higher than in the religious-state education (82 percent) and Arab education system (80 percent).

The parents' abuse usually consisted of swearing, but 45 percent of the teachers who reported such incidents said they were threatened, and an additional 9 percent reported having been physically abused.

Education Ministry figures show that several dozen cases of parents' abuse of teachers occur every year.

Teachers who were verbally abused said this consisted mainly of impertinence, disobedience and to a less extent curses and obscene gestures. Eighty-five percent of the teachers who encountered verbal abuse said the incident had not been handled to their satisfaction. The physical abuse was demonstrated mainly in pupils' pushing and slapping the teachers.

The survey finds that 28 percent of the teachers feel their school did not do enough to protect them from the pupils.

About six months ago a teacher from a Holon high school was registering the late pupils when one of them went wild. "I'm not asking you if or when to come to class. I'm not afraid of you," he shouted, then started pushing her.

"I told him it was rude of him, after all he had been late for class," she said. "He cursed me and my mother, and threw a pencil at me, in front of other pupils."

Summing up 15 years of work, she said the deterioration was evident. Sometimes the pupils pay no attention to the teacher in class and make it impossible to teach. At parent-teacher meetings, parents threaten her when they don't like the pupil's grade.

"Now I'm on holiday, thinking how I can return to that madhouse," she said. "We're fighting for our lives in school."

Said Ran Erez, Secondary School Teachers Association chairman, "As long as the Education Ministry doesn't take the pupils' obligations - not only their rights - seriously, the abuse of teachers will not decrease."

The Education Ministry said that a committee was drafting recommendations to deal with parents' violence.