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Child advocates say parent blaming not solution to teacher injuries

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-21 21:17:09-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A Call 6 Investigation into teachers injured in the classroom by students is prompting a push for to improve safety in the classroom —not just for school staff, but students as well.

Our survey has received nearly 500 responses since Thursday morning, and 95% of teachers, students, parents and school staff say they’re concerned about safety in the classroom.

Seventy-seven percent said they had witnessed a student assault a teacher or staff member.

When asked “What do you think is the MAIN reason behind the problem of teacher injuries?” 53% said lack of consequences for students, 29% said poor parenting, 13% said lack of training to address student trauma and behavior, and only a few respondents mentioned small class sizes and lack of school counselors.

Eighty-three percent said it is everyone’s responsibility to address this problem — parents, school leaders, teachers, and state lawmakers, and 95% said they would support their school providing training to teachers and staff on how to prevent injuries and better address student behavior.

We took our findings to child advocates who say the solution to the problem is not punishing children and their parents.

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“I think that’s horrible,” said Kim Dodson, executive director at Arc of Indiana, an organization that advocates for children with disabilities. “For any parent to judge another parent because of the actions of a student is just horrible. You never know what’s going on in a person’s life.”

Data we found shows the majority of teacher injuries involving students are students with special needs.

Dodson explained a child with autism, for example, may have an outburst for a variety of reasons.

“It could be as simple as overstimulation-the lights, or the atmosphere, the sounds,” Dodson said. “For other students they're not getting the attention at home so they're acting out to fill that need. Students are dealing with a lot more issues at home whether they have a disability or not."

Dodson says behavior plans can be beneficial for schools to have in place.

“They also need to learn de-escalation techniques,” said Dodson. “There are so many times you can see a child when the anxiety is building and you know an outburst is coming."

Universities also need to teach future teachers about special needs, as well as student outbursts, said Dodson.

Plus, she said public schools should offer “Applied Behavior Analysis” therapy, also known as ABA therapy, which especially helps students with autism.

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“If we can get schools working with ABA therapists and allow them to come into the school and classroom which is not allowed in every public school system for whatever reason, that would go a long way in helping these issues not even come to the surface," said Dodson.

Dodson also supports cameras in classrooms with special needs students, something most Indiana classrooms do not have.

“To me it protects everybody involved, the teachers as well as the students," said Dodson.

Our investigation focused on injuries at public schools, but many parents with special needs send them to schools designed for children with disabilities.

"It goes against everything we've been taught,” said Dodson. “We know people with disabilities thrive when they're around people without disabilities. "

Call 6 Investigates plans to share our investigation with state lawmakers to find out what they can do to address the problem.

Have a story about a teacher injury? Email kara.kenney@wrtv.com