Are My Classroom Rules Paranoid?

It's quite normal for a bad experience to have effects on classroom rules, but one needs to be rational about the actual risks faced.
I was advised to read your book, The Gift of Fear, after I was kidnapped at gunpoint and raped by three strangers, one of whom was 19.

I wish I knew about your book before that horrible summer. Since the attack, I've become a high school teacher and one of my class rules is that all students must place their bookbags against the rear wall. I don't let them keep their bags beside their seats. My reasoning, as I told all my classes, is to keep aisles free of obstacles in case of emergency as well as a safety precaution for normal movement. I also told them it was because I didn't know what each kid brought to school and I wanted to lessen the chance of having a weapon brought out in class.

I don't want to make my kids to think that I don't trust them and that I assume the worst about them, nor do I want to create a negative atmosphere in my class. Am I being too paranoid?

You're not paranoid. You're probably just having a natural reaction to your past experience but I don't think you're reacting to an actual risk. While the book bag rule may lessen your anxiety, I don't think it's necessary, and wouldn't be effective in any event. And, yes, it sends a negative message to your students.

Your rule is also serving as a constant reminder to you of your own anxiety about your attack. Frightening news stories aside, school is still one of the safest places people can ever go. It may be a great lesson to your students if you put an end to the rule and told them you were probably reacting to a violent experience you suffered.

Whatever you do, be sure to give yourself some understanding. You have survived your experience, but full recovery takes time.

Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.

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