An increase in suspension notices handed to public school students last year for physically assaulting or intimidating teachers reflects a growing social trend, according to Education director-general Sharyn O'Neill.
Figures released yesterday by the Education Department show that 1996 suspensions were issued for teacher assaults, up from 1786 the previous year.
It was one of just two categories to show a significant increase.
Suspensions also increased for violating school rules, from 7025 to 7402, but fell or stayed the same in eight other categories.
Ms O'Neill said she was concerned about the increase in physical violence against school staff and she backed teachers seeking police assistance if they were assaulted by students.
"It's criminal behaviour," she said. "Teachers should be able to teach feeling safe and getting on with their job.
"We are seeing more physical intimidation, violence and lack of respect for authority in society as a whole, and schools reflect society."
The WA Primary Principals Association has called for a task force to be set up to examine ways to protect principals from violent students and parents, but Ms O'Neill said she could not see any point in that.
"We know the problem, we know there are more mental health issues, we know that some children are not supported to do the right thing and some children don't even understand what it means to show respect for authority," she said.
Last year, 26,228 suspensions were issued to 11,768 students.
One-third of all suspensions were for physically assaulting other students. Year 9 students had the most but more than 240 notices were issued to children in pre-primary and 440 to Year 1s.
Despite a big increase in student enrolments, 430 fewer students were suspended last year than in 2010.
Twenty students were expelled from schools last year, compared with 25 in 2012.