OSEA and AFT will be working hard at the local, state and national levels over the coming months and years to address violence against school staff.
Every Oregon legislator and member of Congress has received copies of our Work Shouldn’t Hurt series. Our coverage has garnered letters from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as the U.S. Department of Education, thanking OSEA for shedding light on the issue and pledging to act as a resource as we seek solutions.
As expressed by numerous sources, lack of data is impeding solutions from the federal level all the way down to the school district. We’ve emphasized the importance of reporting injuries to your employer, but OSEA and AFT are developing other ways to generate this critical information.
We have established a blog at Tumbler where we will be posting stories submitted to us in previous months by school employees about the physical and mental toll of their work. OSEA members can submit their own stories there as well. We will protect the confidentiality of everyone who shares their story unless we are granted permission to use their real name.
Additionally, OSEA plans to make presentations to school boards and parent-teacher organizations to further make connections and build support.
We are also seeking a study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a subdivision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that researches and makes recommendations for prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. NIOSH has already conducted a similar study on hazards facing special education (SPED) employees in Pennsylvania. In addition, OSEA is working with AFT to develop a comprehensive member survey on the topic.
Legislation advocated by OSEA, and passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013, requires school districts to develop policies for employees to report injuries. OSEA will be collecting those policies and pushing to require districts to keep these reports for a certain length of time.
Our government relations department will be taking the cause to Congress and the Oregon Legislature. Preventing workplace violence will be a major legislative priority, and we will be asking candidates for public office how they plan to address the issue.
OSEA will advocate to remove the “safe workplace” designation placed on schools that currently allows districts to not report most workplace injuries to OSHA.
Our SPED assistants have told us they often do not receive critical information on the care and education of SPED students. We plan to address this by calling for SPED assistants to be included in their student’s individualized education program (IEP).
Inconsistency in training quality and frequency has also been cited as a problem. OSEA will push for mandatory training in prevention, de-escalation and self-defense for educational assistants.
Many well-meaning administrators and school districts are constrained by the underfunding of special education. This begins at the federal level, where Congress has for 40 years failed to adequately fund mandates under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). OSEA’s Congressional and Legislative Network Team will be lobbying Congress to expand this funding to meet the needs of our students and school staff.