Reporting injuries ultimately protects students

Still don’t believe in the power of reporting injuries?

In December, Gov. Kate Brown heard from the OSEA Board of Directors about the Work Shouldn’t Hurt campaign and how students and staff are ill-served by unsafe classrooms.

“We need to get an accurate assessment of the problem, and getting information is key,” Brown said.

Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown discusses the importance of reporting workplace injuries during a meeting with the OSEA Board of Directors in December. “We need to get an accurate assessment of the problem and getting information is key,” Brown said.

Ultimately, reporting protects students as well as the teachers and staff who educate and care for them. Without documentation of injuries, no one — not school administrators, lawmakers or even a child’s parents — have a full picture of what is happening in special education (SPED) classrooms.

Lynn, a SPED assistant in central Oregon, described working with a student who routinely struck other students without provocation.

“I’ve seen him slap the faces of other students; I’ve seen him bite them; I’ve seen him kick them,” Lynn said. “When you step in and restrain him, you get headbutted or kicked.”

Privacy laws and policies surrounding medical and student information often mean knowledge of an incident doesn’t go beyond those directly involved. If injured by a student, a staff member should not presume others will pass information on to decision-makers who can then act.

“Unless our members report these incidents, no one knows they happen,” OSEA Government Relations Specialist Tricia Smith said.

OSEA helped pass legislation in 2013 requiring districts to create a process for reporting injuries. The next step is to use this data to make the case for meaningful change. But change starts with the willingness of school employees to speak up.

“Every day someone in the classroom gets hurt, whether it’s a teacher, an assistant or a child,” said Carol, another SPED assistant from central Oregon. “It’s not safe for the kids or the staff. … Everyone’s kinda shuffling their feet and saying, ‘I’m not going to talk about it.’ It’s time someone talked about it.”

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