A quarter of teachers in the Netherlands report to be verbally or physically abused by students in school

It may or may not surprise you, but new research by DUO Education Research and Advice has found that a quarter of teachers in the Netherlands over the past year have suffered some kind of abuse by their students. This includes intimidation or threats, and/or actual physical violence. This survey was conducted on over 1,000 teachers.

NOS also conducted their own survey with their Instagram followers. 10,000 people responded and half of them reported that they have seen or experienced teachers being abused. One of the most frequent verbal abuse being ‘cancer whore.’ Of course, this wasn’t academic research, it was just an Instagram poll, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it’s still alarming how may people are familiar with this. I too have also witnessed this back in my home country.

Teachers are reported to be doing the same

The report also suggests that some teachers are also guilty of using foul language. In response to the student misbehaving, students report offensive and racist remarks. Apparently, there are no consequences for the teachers using this kind of behaviour.

However, many teachers ignore the abuse and pretend not to hear it. ‘Cancer mongrel’ ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ is thrown around the classroom, but no response is given.

Nothing is being done

NOS reports that certain instances have been so bad that teachers have ended up in hospital. There were reports of a teacher being racist towards a student, that led the class to throw chairs and tables at the teacher. Other teachers were then frightened to go back.

It seems like the relationship between teacher and student is continually under threat. Racism is never okay and neither is throwing tables. No one is dealing with it effectively and it seems as if it’s only getting worse. Teachers have also reported some students coming in drunk or on drugs.

I’ve been in a few classes where the teacher has done nothing though and some students were just looking for trouble. I’ve seen teachers cry and even leave the profession because of it. Something has to change.

What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments. 

Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.


  1. Dear Ms. Brown,

    Your article on the surprisingly high levels of teacher bullying in Dutch schools was illuminating and alarming. Thank you for contributing this important piece.

    As a bit of background, I’d note that I’m from Portland, Oregon, in the US and recently returned from a trip to the Netherlands; while there, I discovered the Dutch Review, which I plan on continuing to read.

    I suppose I found the findings about teacher bullying to be surprising because I’ve unwittingly fallen prey to the lazy stereotype about the Netherlands as being an amazingly open, civilized, integrated, and peaceful society–as if everybody there feels a kind of cozy social cohesiveness and sense of belonging and outreach. The reality, of course, is that no society is without considerable social conflict, and your article revealed one of the ways in which social conflict, and its intersection with racism, plays out in schools.

    I did wonder whether the Netherlands has implemented anti-bullying programs, at the national, provincial, or local levels. Your article seemed to suggest that the answer is no, that nothing of a systematic nature is being done to address this ugly and widespread problem. (The problem, at least in the US, is typically discussed in relation to student-to-student bullying, not teacher bullying, but a culture of bullying, regardless of who is the victim, is such a big problem that cries out for attention.)

    Perhaps you are familiar with the widely respected Finnish anti-bullying program in schools, KiVa, which has a strong research base, and the innovative and well-researched anti-bullying Roots program developed by Elizabeth Paluck, a Princeton University psychology professor, and her colleagues. Bullying is a destructive presence in many schools, but promising approaches have emerged to address it.

    It would be great, as a follow-up, to learn more about steps that students, educators, and other social and public leaders in the Netherlands are taking, or planning to take, to develop bullying-free school cultures.

    Thanks again for your valuable article.

  2. There is a problem of racism and teacher bullying at my son’s school! Many parents got together to discuss and the school is refusing to take it seriously mainly because the administrators and many of the staff are bullies themselves! It’s distressful as an educator myself to see this behavior first hand and see the teachers set such a negative example especially for other white Dutch kids! I’ve gone to the very top but I believe the so called “directness” the Dutch claim is only one-sided. They can not accept it from others who are not white Dutch. So it’s not directness but rather racism disguised with jokes and sarcasm. Coming from a country who’s steeped in racism I know it when I see it no matter how subtle. The Dutch are not tolerant they just like the title and if they are called out on their rudeness they blame you. In psychology we would diagnose this as sociopathic or narcissism! As a minority of means and education I have been harassed because of the car I drive and the career I hold. The Dutch like to keep minorities in a box and their class divided education system where most of the children are segmented off far too young on a life path through 3 levels of education, HAVO, MVO, BVO. It is an obvious mechanism to keep minorities in a certain type of job since the educators seem to immediately put the BVO education, which hold the lowest paying jobs and opportunities for wealth! Parents of color must constantly advocate for their children to receive higher education within the Dutch system. The white Dutch parents also make it difficult by excluding non white children from birthday parties and other activities. The school allow this because they allow invitations to Ben passed out in class rather than insisting parents do it out of class. They are immediately setting up who is included and who is not! If the Dutch arrogantly believe they are above such behavior they should take was is said by non Dutch as an opportunity for self reflection and growth rather than an insult of character. No one is perfect!


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