Most teachers may believe that they face a low risk of sustaining an injury at work. And if they do suffer an injury, they are usually the result of long-term exertion, such as repetitive stress injuries from writing, twisting or bending.
However, recent news indicates that Florida teachers might face more risks in the classroom than they previously thought.
Violence in the classroom leading to more claims
The Herald-Tribune reports that teachers are suffering more work injuries than before as a result of violent outbursts from students. Most of these incidents involve students in special education classrooms. Many times, these outbursts are unpredictable but expected from students who have trouble communicating their emotions.
Regardless of the intention, many teachers have filed workers’ compensation claims this school year that is costing one district upwards of $50,000.
Why are teachers at risk?
Educators who work with students with special needs are actually a part of the working population who faces the highest risk of workplace violence. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), anyone who regularly works with individuals who might be unstable is at risk, such as:
- Nurses and health care professionals
- Employees in law enforcement
- Social workers and psychiatrists
- Retail workers
- Special education teachers
However, teachers rarely claim that the students are the center of the issue. What seems to be the problem is the lack of training and ability that teachers have to mitigate these situations.
Many teachers and school staff cannot touch the students, even to defend themselves from violent outbursts. There are also several substitute teachers who do not receive adequate training to handle these incidents.
Claims for workplace violence are possible—but the problem is bigger than that
Most employees can recover compensation for injuries resulting from an assault on the job. As long as teachers can prove that the assault was work-related, they can file a claim. And the increase in claims demonstrates that many teachers have recovered benefits successfully.
However, like most work injuries, these incidents are preventable. Districts and schools alike can take action to protect both students and staff by:
- Creating training and strategies to defuse violent outbursts
- Providing teachers with safety equipment in these environments
- Adjusting the classroom environment to meet students’ needs
- Considering some form of repercussions for violence
- Assigning students a para-educator to assist teachers
Today’s teachers face high expectations and significant challenges every day. And providing them with the support they need to avoid serious injuries is critical.