Special education paraprofessionals: Work shouldn't hurt

27 May 2016
Work shouldn't hurt
PSI affiliate the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has received a huge response from its members to a recent article by the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) on the subject of violence towards special education paraprofessionals.

A lot of attention is paid to bullying at school, but most of that attention is on student-on-student bullying. Not a lot of attention is paid to the harm inflicted on staff, which ranges from verbal abuse to outright violence.

In a discussion last fall among AFT PSRP leaders, about half raised their hands when asked if they had personally been threatened physically or experienced violence on the job at school or college.

Special education paraprofessionals, support staff who run in-school suspension classrooms, campus security employees and school transportation workers are particularly at risk—as are noontime monitors who discipline students and break up fights. One PSRP leader from Florida, whose main job is handling workers’ compensation claims, said that every week in her district, school bus drivers and monitors are beaten up.

In fact, the three fields at highest risk of workplace violence nationwide are healthcare, law enforcement and education, notes Amy Bahruth, an assistant director with the AFT department of health, safety and well-being. “That would probably surprise a lot of people,” she said, “that we rank right up there with law enforcement.” It tells you something, she added, when 30,000 educators and support staff took the time last year to fill out a 70-question AFT survey on the quality of work life and work-related stress.

A leader from New Mexico said a new problem she’s seeing for staff is their doctors’ diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder—but PTSD is not accepted as a condition for workers’ compensation. “This is a prevalent problem,” she said.

“Violence is violence,” no matter where it comes from, said a PSRP leader from Colorado. “We need to stand up and speak out.”

In fact, the three fields at highest risk of workplace violence nationwide are healthcare, law enforcement and education, notes Amy Bahruth, an assistant director with the AFT department of health, safety and well-being. “That would probably surprise a lot of people,” she said, “that we rank right up there with law enforcement.” It tells you something, she added, when 30,000 educators and support staff took the time last year to fill out a 70-question AFT survey on the quality of work life and work-related stress.

A leader from New Mexico said a new problem she’s seeing for staff is their doctors’ diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder—but PTSD is not accepted as a condition for workers’ compensation. “This is a prevalent problem,” she said.

“Violence is violence,” no matter where it comes from, said a PSRP leader from Colorado. “We need to stand up and speak out.”

- See more at: http://www.aft.org/periodical/psrp-reporter/spring-2016/work-shouldnt-hu...

Read more on the AFT website.

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