Teacher Petitions Cal/OSHA on Protection from Classroom Violence

25 Jul

As Cal/OSHA prepares to work on a new standard to deal with the violence hospital workers face, a new petition to the Standards Board ask for similar protections for teachers.
Teacher Meleah Hall, of Discovery Bay, addressed the board at its July 17 meeting on the hazards workers in her profession face. “Often we hear about violence in the school setting, yet the educator is often left out of the conversation,” Hall said. “When any member of the educational instruction team is injured, ultimately the student’s educational experience is impacted.”
A special education teacher, Hall speaks from personal experience: She said she was knocked unconscious by a student with autism. In fact, she says, an American Psychological Association survey of 3,000 teachers reported that 80% had experienced workplace violence of some sort, and about half reported being assaulted.
In Hall’s case, law enforcement refused to take a report. “It’s almost like we’re an island unto ourselves,” she told the board.
Fellow educator Stephanie Baker supports the petition. She told the board that she had suffered several injuries due to school violence, but was rebuffed by her workers’ comp insurance carrier. “Oh, no, that’s not happening to you,” she says she was told. “There’s definitely an issue with the insurance companies.”
Hall is asking for a standard mandating a workplace violence prevention program, specifically including special education teachers, “who work in a variety of classroom settings that have a higher incidence of violence.” She also wants continuation and community day schools included.
Additionally, she says, school districts should be held to the same standard as other industries on recording and reporting incidents. Hall says currently school districts are exempt from most documentation requirements. And, she says, “If a student or outsider, including, but limited to, relatives, has a history of violence, the employees need to be informed. There should be annual reporting by school district[s] of how many teachers and staff were physically assaulted in the workplace.”
The standards should apply to both public and private schools. Hall calls for training for special ed teachers before they start classroom work, as well as particular training for teachers in urban settings “who are exposed to possible gun violence.” She asks the board to ensure that employees are actively involved in creating the standard.
Finally, the petition asks that law enforcement be summoned when there is an unlawful act against a school employee “to support with the investigation if bodily harm was involved.”
(This article is from the Cal/OSHA Reporter – July 24, 2014)

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