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Schools can't report teacher injuries to the state despite new law

IDOE has yet to develop form for schools to submit incidents
Franklin Community High School
Posted at 9:03 AM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 18:21:13-05

INDIANAPOLIS-- Indiana schools are not yet able to report teacher injuries to the state, this despite a new law that requires them to do just that.

House Enrolled Act 1591 took effect July 1, 2023.

The law 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.

As WRTV Investigates has reported on this growing problem, Indiana teachers are kicked, punched and headbutted by their own students.

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Earlier this month, a student at Franklin Community High School injured a teacher.

"This behavior is not tolerated and FCHS administration will follow the guidelines outlined in the student handbook as they conclude their investigation," said Robin Betts, Director of Community and Public Relations at Franklin Community Schools. 'FCS is committed to providing a safe, secure learning environment."

Franklin Community Schools has had five teacher injuries so far this school year.

However, when Franklin Community Schools tried to report the instances to the Indiana Department of Education, they received the following response from the Indiana Department of Education.

"This is not available yet," read the IDOE response. "The process for providing this data is being developed and will be a template form to be uploaded into Data Exchange. Once this is available, announcements will be posted out as well as information where instructions on completing can be located."

The author of the teacher injury reporting law, Rep. Ed. Clere, R-New Albany, is disappointed.

"We expected more by this point,” said Clere. "I’m disappointed in the apparent lack of urgency on the part of the Department of Education."

Clere authored HEA 1591, which took effect July 1, to address teacher turnover.

 "It took effect well before the start of school," said Clere. "I thought reporting would begin with the 2023-2024 school year."

The state has not provided any guidance to school on how to report teacher injuries, nor has it created a form for schools to upload the information.

"I just don't understand the delay," Clere said. "It’s essential we have data on this problem because we can’t begin to address it until we fully understand it."

WRTV Investigates contacted IDOE asking for an update on the process.

 "IDOE is currently establishing the reporting process within Data Exchange and will provide detailed guidance to support schools in complying with the new law once the reporting process is fully built out by IDOE’s data team," said Molly Williams, IDOE Deputy Director of Communications, in an email to WRTV.

"Data collection and tabulation is not rolling; it will occur once at the end of each school year. Guidance on how to report injuries will be provided to schools before the end of the 2023-2024 school year, prior to any annual data submissions."

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 found all kinds of injuries — teachers hit, punched, kicked, hair pulled, headbutted and some suffering from concussions.

"It’s really important that we start gathering this data so that it can inform policy decisions," Clere said. "To me it’s unacceptable to lose an entire year of data reporting after the law took effect."

Rep. Clere plans to address the issue with the Indiana Department of Education and with fellow lawmakers.

"It’s too important to delay," said Clere. "We risk losing an entire years’ worth of reporting."

Clere encourages schools to track teacher injuries regardless of whether they can report them to the state.

Franklin Community Schools says it will continue documenting injuries and will report to IDOE once the reporting mechanism is available.

The Indiana State Teachers Association released the following statement:

The tracking and reporting of teacher injuries in HEA 1591 was a top priority for ISTA. Representative Clere worked diligently to ensure the inclusion of this language in the last legislative session. We were optimistic that schools would promptly receive updates and guidance on complying with the new law as it took effect on July 1. It is disheartening to learn that schools have yet to receive such guidance, even several months into the school year and nearly eight months after the bill's passage. Understanding the severity of student-related injuries on our teaching staff is crucial. We urge the department to expedite the issuance of guidance to schools promptly. It is imperative that we address this matter urgently for the well-being of our educators and the effectiveness of the reporting system.
ISTA President Keith Gambill: