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How can I be protected physically from a dangerous special education student?


Q: I am part of a team teaching at a K-6 school with autism. My team has a 6th grade autism student who is physically hurting teachers. His behaviors include: butting with head and knocking down, fingers around throat, pinching, and scraping. What rights do the teachers have to teach and not be hurt? His dad died this summer and mom is also black and blue, but refusing to do anything but leave him with us. He is becoming too much for us. We have removed almost all students from the same room leaving him alone with a single teacher. What are our options?

A: Your question involves many complicated issues that I cannot fully address in this limited space. I hope you will follow up on my suggestions with your Uniserv Director.

Teachers should report work accidents in writing. Work accidents include bumps, bruises, scrapes or scratches caused by a student. Filing a written report creates a record that goes to the school's workers' compensation insurance and the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. A record is important to get the teacher medical attention for the immediate injury, or later complications.

Reporting the injury also brings attention to the "cost" of this situation.   Change may be easier if administrators understand the cost of the status quo .
          
Consider invoking child study and placement mechanisms. Your student may need a new individual education program (IEP), providing him additional services or sending him to a different class or special school.   His Mom is glad to have him at school, but she might agree to a change in placement that offers him more, not less, attention and service.
  
Also remember your statutory obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect. Mom is alone, may be grieving, and dealing with a very difficult child. Reporting concerns of suspected abuse/neglect might get Mom help from social workers, and protect teachers from prosecution for failure to report.
   
Be sure to document concerns that the student is a danger to himself and to the other students. Can you carry out the IEPs of the other students if you remove them from the room or leave one teacher to handle this student? Spelling that out in writing will be a real attention-grabber.
   
Teachers should not cope with problems alone. Follow up with your Uniserv Director to get help for the teachers - and for your student.

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