AFT Resolution

WORK SHOULDN’T HURT—SAFE SCHOOLS FOR ALL

WHEREAS, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries and all school staff operate at a heightened level of vigilance to guarantee their and their students’ safety; and

WHEREAS, school staff are, at times, required to intervene in situations where students and staff may be at risk of harm or injury from a student’s uncontrolled behavior; and

WHEREAS, the Oregon School Employees Association has received a significant uptick in reports of serious and career-ending injuries among its members who support behaviorally challenged students; and

WHEREAS, OSEA has launched a campaign to end these preventable and tragic incidents, beginning with a published series of articles, “Work Shouldn’t Hurt,” that documented sobering case studies; OSEA leaders and members took these reports to the governor and other policymakers; and

WHEREAS, the Oregon experience is far from unique. American Federation of Teachers affiliates have reported increased rates of work-related assaults among special education paraprofessionals and assistants. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that public school teaching assistants have a high rate of work-related injuries that result in lost work days; and

WHEREAS, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found in a statewide Pennsylvania education study that special education paraprofessionals, assistants and teachers had the highest rate of work-related assaults and associated injuries; and

WHEREAS, a study of 8,000 school staff workers’ compensation claims in Minnesota reported that special education assistants and teachers were at high risk of being injured and requiring medical care and workers’ compensation; and

WHEREAS, special education assistants were most at risk for “student-related injuries” and had the highest workers’ compensation claims rate (five for every 100 full-time employees) for such injuries, compared with all other school personnel; and

WHEREAS, special education staff are at risk not only for physical injuries but also for lingering and long-term post-traumatic stress disorders; and

WHEREAS, school districts across the country have failed to systematically and adequately address the issue. For example, OSEA has documented a mixed record among Oregon school districts of recording incidents, providing protective equipment and adequate de-escalation and restraint training for at-risk personnel, and assessing the placement needs of special education students:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will  continue to assist affiliates in developing campaigns that will assess the prevalence of assaults and related injuries, significantly improve district policy and practice, and educate members on steps to protect themselves and students as well as support injured members; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will develop and disseminate leadership and member training modules for affiliates to both educate about the problem and advocate for appropriate professional development on preventing injuries; and 

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with affiliates and education organizations to identify the best evidence-based staff training programs for supporting students who are behaviorally challenged; and 

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Administration coverage for public employees, mandatory OSHA reporting requirements for education employers, and expanded national surveillance of the prevalence of assaults on special education personnel by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education.

(2016)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.