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Bill would require schools to report when teachers are injured by students

Indiana does not track school employee injuries.
Hannah Elliott used to be a teacher in Elwood, but she left the profession after getting hurt on the job by student.  Indiana does not track teacher injuries like Hannah Elliott’s incident, but House Bill 1591 would change that.
Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 19:11:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS— A new effort is underway to better protect teachers from getting hurt on the job by students.

It’s a problem WRTV Investigates has been tracking since 2019— teacher injuries.

Hannah Elliott used to be a teacher in Elwood, but she left the profession after getting hurt on the job.

“I am the adult and teen services librarian at Jay County Public Library,” said Elliott.

WRTV Investigates first introduced you to Elliott in 2020 after a student outburst permanently damaged her right ear.

In 2023, Elliott still relies on a hearing aide.

“I have an 85 percent loss of my hearing,” said Elliott.

Indiana does not track teacher injuries like Hannah Elliott’s incident, but House Bill 1591 would change that.

It would require schools to report teacher injuries caused by students to the Indiana Department of Education.

IDOE would compile the numbers, without identifiable information, into a publicly available database.

“I'm really excited,” said Elliott in response to the legislation. “I definitely think schools need to be held accountable and that it's public record. I think a lot of it gets pushed under the rug."

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, is the lawmaker behind the teacher injury language.

His wife is a high school teacher who was injured breaking up a fight.

"She was kicked pretty hard and had to go to urgent care,” said Clere. “Her experience makes this issue personal for me.”

Clere emphasizes the legislation is a first step in addressing teacher injuries.

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“We don't know what we don't know, so it's important to have good information so the legislature can make good policy,” said Clere. “It’s also important to send a message that we support teachers and other school employees and we want to know what’s going on and be able to address it.”

Because Indiana doesn’t track the problem, WRTV Investigates filed records requests with two dozen school districts in central Indiana for teacher and staff injuries involving students.

We counted more than 1,590 incidents and found all kinds of injuries — teachers hit, punched, kicked, hair pulled, headbutted and some suffering from concussions.

WRTV Investigates also created a teacher survey to learn more about the problem of teacher injuries and nearly 400 teachers responded.

More than half of teachers said they had been hurt on the job, and of those that said yes, half of the injuries were caused by a student.

  • 73 percent of teachers said they had witnessed a student assaulting a teacher or staff member.
  • 75 percent of teachers told WRTV they have seriously considered leaving the profession.
  • 94 percent of educators believe schools and the legislature need to do more to address teacher safety.

Teachers told WRTV Investigates disturbing accounts including one teacher who suffered three concussions due to being hit punched and kicked, another who said a student grabbed her breast and sexually assaulted her.

Other examples:

  • “A student grabbed my bra strap from behind and tore my earrings out.”
  • “Was attempting to break up a boy fight and was unintentionally thrown by one of the boys.”
  • “The same student broke my toes and stabbed me with a pencil.”
  • “Tripped intentionally by a student; dislocated thumb by trying to help an upset child.”
  • “Stabbed in leg with pair of scissors. Door shut on my hand.”

Another teacher who filled out the survey said a student urinated on her.

Rep. Clere says his legislation would apply to all school employees, not just teachers.

"Bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, and counselors and administrators and everybody in the school building is at risk,” said Clere. “This legislation covers everyone."

Clere says tracking injuries will help address the teacher shortage in Indiana.

“Teachers and other school employees have left their job over this,” said Clere. “I don’t think the public understands what is happening or how serious it is.”

Hannah Elliott is hopeful the legislation will move forward.

“I hope they take it seriously,” said Elliott.

Last year, a similar effort failed but this session the teacher injury language is part of a massive education bill that Clere says has a good chance of passing.

ISTA President Keith Gambill released the following statement:

“We thank Rep. Clere in working with ISTA on language for tracking teacher injuries, as well as Rep. Behning for including it in his bill. Maintaining a state database of school employee injuries by students remains a priority for ISTA, as we have worked on this issue for several years now. To address the issue of teacher injuries by students, we need to know the data first. Getting access to this information has not been easy. We look forward to working with Rep. Clere and Rep. Behning on getting this policy adopted this legislative session.”

PREVIOUS | Elwood teacher loses hearing as a result of injury caused by student