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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Getting Injured Part of the "Job" or Not

Getting Injured Part of the "Job" or Not

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Recently it seems that it is becoming more the expectation that special educators will be injured on the job, and furthermore we should not complain or file accident reports. I am CPI trained and have never had to use restraint until this year. I avoid it even to getting injured myself. However when injured I will file a report. Personally I think that the student and the teacher have equal rights to be safe in the classroom setting. If restraint has to be used repeatedly shouldn't a behavior manifestation meeting be held and LRE discussed? Are other special ed teachers getting hurt on the job?

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Mrs. W's picture
Mrs. W
5-8 Language Arts and History Teacher

In special education especially the severe, autistic, or emotional disorder there is a risk of getting hurt. I have spent 5 years as a paraprofessional in a severe/profound disabilities classroom. I have been bit, scratched, head butted, and kicked more times than I can count. I to have been trained in CPI, and have had to use restraints and holds. Luckly I have not been seriously injured, the worst is bitten where it broke the skin. I knew it was a matter of time before I did get hurt. That was one of the reasons I left severe special education and took the job in regular education is the risk of getting hurt, and as a para I did not get health insurance. The key in special education is to be aware of your students. Study the IEP of each student, and train everyone in your room to help you in a crisis. Students that act out and can get violent should have a behavior plan. Special education can be a risky job, but these students have every right to be educated.

Jennifer Holcombe's picture
Jennifer Holcombe
After School care at the Austin Discovery School (Challenge School)

This happened to me many years ago (about 32 yrs ago) in a HeadStart classroom in upstate NY. I was a teacher's aide in a preschool classroom. The teacher was bitter about everything in her life and I think she had no affinity with the special needs children in our class. One of the children was a screamer. At that time we were told we had to hold the child in a chair while he screamed at the top of his lungs. I had no idea what his screaming was doing to me until that job was over and I moved back to NYC. When a truck or subway train hit their breaks the sound pierced through my brain and the pain ripped through my head. It still happens. I guess I lost some ability to block out sound? I have never gone to a doctor about this problem but it still affects me in a bad, bad way. My advice is to protect yourself, and be adamant about your rights to be safe, that is the whole point of good effective teaching. Everyone needs to feel and be safe.

AL's picture
primary school, K-2, special education teacher from Emerald Isle, NC

I too am CPI trained. I work with primary grade students, many with autism and/or behavioral problems. Twice in three years I have been in the ER because of an injury sustained at the hands of a child in crisis. I had my sternum cracked by a child. The ER doctor couldn't understand how a 40 pound child could do that kind of damage until a nurse said she had seen the same thing happen in a residential facility that she had work in. I have run into the same situation where we are encouraged NOT to report injuries. My greatest fear is that another child will be hurt when one of my students with special needs is in the midst of a tantrum. Everyone one of us, teacher and student, has the right to be safe in the classroom.

AL's picture
primary school, K-2, special education teacher from Emerald Isle, NC

I might need to change my name for job protection. Teachers at my school thought that those of us in special education make more money and I hear comments like "That's what you get paid for." Well, like you, I do not make more than regular education teachers, and like you I too have to put up with behavior which no other teacher (regular ed) would have to. I love my students and my desire to help those with special needs is great, but physically I do not know how many more years my body can take the beating it has these passed three years working with students with severe behavioral needs.

rengirl's picture
K-5 Sped Teacher, Adjunct Professor, WA

I am hit, slapped, punched, kicked, shoved, scratched, pinched, knocked over, pulled to the ground, had my hair pulled out of my head, and "escorted" out of control children DAILY, not to mention enduring yelling and screaming for hours on end. Like many of you, I have regular injuries and bruises, one after another. I have been in medical care for years for serious back injuries, chronic pain which is on-going as assults continue, and contusions. My physical therapist calls me an "abused woman" who no longer registers injuries and have a pain tollerance which is altered. She reminds me frequently that if any other student did this to a teacher they would be suspended, and if another adult did this to me, they would be in jail. These students act without warning; a simple request, interaction, attempt to instruct, can result in an asault. Last month a nine year old student with Autism pounded my hand repeatedly with a closed fist, and I had splinter breaks through my knuckles. I can not avoid touching the child, she is in diapers, is bottle fed, and non-verbal. But this assault came virtually out of the blue during therapy. These students do have FBA's and Behavior Plans. I have years of experience, I am a behavior expert, have been trained in Right Response, have been trained by police officers on how to restrain students, and I am on the Positive Behavioral Support Team.
Even if it is a result of their disability, no teacher should ever be assaulted and it be "ok" with anyone, especially adminstrators. Obviously these students absolutely deserve a Free and Appropriate Education, infact I am the biggest advocate. But we are not equipped for this level of violence to be in our classrooms daily. In addition, when this behavior occurs, there is no learning going on with anyone else- it is upseting and disruptive to the other students whom we are trying to teach. I have an obligation, moral and legal, to ensure their programs as well.
I was at that same law conference inwhich the legal advisor actually made it appear that it was ok for this to happen to "us" although it would never be tolerated if a general education teacher were treated the same way- even once. I asked at a conference this summer what we can do, and the only answer the presenter had was that we need to start law suits against our districts and the parents of the students... and most of us still want to teach- we just want to be safe like every other teacher....

Everett Perry's picture
Everett Perry
Co-Owner of Special Education Protective Wear Company

I have personally seen the same things you have with regard to staff injuries. Bites, kicks, hits, head butting, chairs being thrown at staff members and all they were told is there is nothing we can do.

I was having a conversation with a Para-Educator several years ago and she made the statement "they really beat me up today". She then pulled up the sleeve of her shirt and I saw bite marks and bruises up her arms. I was appalled that this could happen in a classroom. She told me that they have tried all kinds of products and nothing worked well because it was bulky, hot, and uncomfortable or interfered with the learning environment. From that day on I was sent on a quest to find a better product.

I spent 1 year trying everything from Kevlar shirts to bulky bite sleeves to find the right product the staff would actually use. What I found is that there was no good solution. I finally found an amazing new armor that was thin, flexible, light weight and could be hidden under your clothes with minimal heat issues. The material is called D3O. The only problem was it was not in a wearable form that could be worn covertly.

I worked with a company and we created a product called Armortech with D3O armor inside. We have since put this armor into over 20 large school districts across the Western United States. I can say that we have a product that teachers can wear that protects from most injuries. The armor is easily hidden under clothes, light weight, breathable and does not interfere with the education process so the staff will wear it.

If you need more information please contact me at everett.perry@jjeresources.com We want to help you not worry about injuries and focus on the students learning.

Everett Perry

jjd005's picture
K-3 Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Special Education Teacher

This past year was my worst year for injuries or the threat of injuries occurring in the classroom. I am also trained for dealing with crisis situations. I have had the opportunity to receive MANDT training. Unfortunately, it hasn't seemed to make a significant difference.

I know we are required by law to intervene with students to prevent the students hurting themselves or others, but I am beginning to wonder if we are doing enough? I know we all put in 110%, but what if we are focusing on the reactive rather than the proactive? How can we change what we are doing in our classrooms, so risk of injury due to restraints can decrease? I have read some great literature this summer on novel approaches for working with kids in crisis and I can't wait to implement them in my classroom this fall.

Anne's picture
special ed middle school mod to severe

I work with severely disabled kids. One of our teachers was fired as she tried to restrain a violent student to keep her from hurting herself and others. The teacher ended up in the emergency room bloody and battered but not one mark on the student. The teacher had begged for training but got none. Our union fought it but eventually the teacher ended up with a "deal" or settlement that she left but they gave her a lump sum. And she got to keep. her license. Now we have cameras in every classroom. They cant afford raises for the past 6 years but they can afford cameras to spy on us. I will not put my hands on another child. From now on if someone goes off my aide will remove the other students and I will keep something between the student and myself. Not condusive for a education environment but I am not a punching bag and they have tied my hands. Our union (oea) stated to make a police report no matter what if you are hurt. And Ohio law says you can use equal force not more but equal to protect yourself. Not sure it would hold up in court but that is what we were told.

Mandy's picture

I know very well what you are all going through, I was desperate to help my staff..we are using arm guards and protective clothing at the moment, they are great, they protect against scratching, biting, pinching, they even do some with added protection for kicks..i know it's only part of the solution, but try them : http://www.biteresistantarmguards.com/ Stay safe!

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