News and HeadlinesWRTV Investigates

Actions

New law requires Indiana schools to report teacher injuries

HEA 1591 takes effect July 1
Hannah Elliott left the teaching profession after losing 80% of the hearing in her right ear during an Elwood second grader’s outburst.
Hannah Elliott left the teaching profession after losing 80% of the hearing in her right ear during an Elwood second grader’s outburst.
Posted at 3:16 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-06 09:41:05-04

INDIANAPOLIS— Starting July 1, Indiana schools will be required to report when school employees are injured by students.

Governor Eric Holcomb signed HEA1591, which requires schools to track teacher injuries and report the data to the Indiana Department of Education.

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

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

Because Indiana has not tracked 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.

The law, which requires public schools and charter schools to report injuries that occur after June 30 if the injury:

  • is required to be reported to the public school's worker's compensation carrier
  • causes the employee to miss all or part of one (1) or more work days or
  • is required to be reported to the public school pursuant to the public school's reporting policy.

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.

hearing aid.png

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

Elliott said she cried when the Governor signed HEA1591.

"It is just the start of the reform that is needed but it is a huge step in the right direction,” said Elliott. “Teachers help educate our future generations and they should be able to do their jobs knowing that they have the protection, training, and support that they need in order to do their job successfully."

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.png

PREVIOUS | Parents explain why teacher injuries are happening

Clere hopes the new law will address turnover at schools.

"We are struggling to attract and retain teachers and other school employees,” said Clere. “It's also bus drivers, and counselors and cafeteria workers and everybody else."

Like many education laws, there’s no penalty in place for schools who don’t comply.

Clere says state leaders will use the data not to punish individual schools, but to improve policies and procedures.

"It will make schools safer for everyone,” said Clere. "I think we are going to find that these injuries are happening everywhere. They may be happening more in certain areas, but they are happening everywhere.”

The Indiana Department of Education is currently in the process of developing guidance and procedures for this, among other recently enacted legislation, according to an IDOE spokesperson.

"Our team will be working with schools to ensure this data is properly captured and that they are in compliance when HEA1591 goes into effect July 1," said Christina Molinari, press secretary for IDOE.

“I predict it will be sobering to see the data,” said Clere. “No school is immune from this. It's a problem all over the state."

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.”

ISTA President Keith Gambill released the following statement in response to the Governor signing the bill:

“We appreciate Rep. Clere’s persistence on this issue. Tracking teacher injuries so we can better understand this issue has been an ISTA priority for several legislative sessions now. Securing this language has been one of the few positives for educators to come out of this otherwise dismal session.”

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