I just recently came across several articles on how abuse of teachers by the students are on an increase. This is something completely new to me, and I would just like to know more about it, if this really happens a lot in the classroom, and if anybody has experienced this themselves. 

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I think it depends on 2 factors...
1) what do you define as abuse?
2) where are you teaching?

If you define abuse as verbal, things like talking back, not following directions, rude, disrespectful behavior, etc (and I'm sure many teachers would define that as abuse) then yes, it really happens in the classrooms.

If you define abuse in the physical, hitting, punching, etc, it leads me to my second question....

... I taught middle school in one of the worst schools in NYC (we made the newspapers 5 times in 2 years for test scores, violence, etc). There was verbal and physical abuse. I have a student threaten to shoot me, a threat deemed valid enough it earned him a 90 day suspension. Students would curse out teachers, bump in to them intentionally in the halls, use racial epithets, etc.

I am now in an elementary school in a different neighborhood. In the 2 years I've been here we've been in the paper multiple times for good things. Improving test scores, parental involvement, etc. It is basically the exact opposite of the middle school. Nothing I would deem abuse, verbal or physical, at all here.

So, yes, abuse of teachers happens. I'd say it happens often and in many way. So it depends, what do you consider abuse and where do you teach...
Teachers are so limited in the punishment they are allowed to offer, that it is easy for students to walk all over them. I have watched it many times when I was back in school, both verbal and in the extreme cases, physical.
I agree that the teachers are very limited in options for punishment. If you compare it to past years when teachers were allowed to smack you with a ruler, use the paddle, etc., today's "political correctness" could even accuse a teacher of abuse to an innocent action that used to not be mistook. It is a very scary thought if you think about it as a teacher's point of view.
I have not started teaching yet, but this is an area that concerns me because I will be in middle school. Hopfully, I will not be a victim of this behavior, but what if I am? Do the schools or districts have policies in place and procedures that are followed when student to teacher bullying takes place?
Check local districts for policies, but I would say as a generalization there is nothing official.

NYC has a "student code of conduct" but how it is enforced and viewed vary school to school.

My advice, as a former middle school teacher at one of NYC's toughest, don't back down, don't lose your cool, and show no fear. Focus on control and management more than content matter. Clear routines, clear rules consequences, uniform and rapid enforcement of rules, routines, and consequences. These types of things, once part of the class environment will allow the subject matter to be taught effectively and you wont have to worry about behavior as much.

Don't give up on management, and know it will take a while to get a groove. It will happen. I was much better my second year than my first and I am far better in my 8th than I was in my 2nd.

Stick with it and don't let them see you sweat, you'll be fine.
It is easier for students to get away with bad behavior than teachers because the teachers are supposed to be the adults in the situation. Excuses are made for the students many times allowing them to get out of control in situations that have led to abuse verbally or physically. I've seen students abusing teachers and the teachers responding with punishments, in the end its always the teacher being hung out to dry.

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