When Schools Become a Dangerous Place to Work

Arizona Injury Law Group

Attending public or specialized schools, or teaching students, is not always the safest job anymore. Teachers and other school officials have been assaulted by teenage students and in some cases, severely injured, both physically and emotionally.

In a recent case in Tennessee, the courts concluded that Christopher Tidwell, a youth service officer employed at Natchez Trace Academy for troubled young people, was injured in June 2013 when he attempted to break up an altercation between two students. While restraining one of the two students, a third student hit him with a sharp object in the face hard enough that Tidwell eventually had to have plastic surgery to repair the damage.

When the Workplace Creates Anxiety

Tidwell’s doctor allowed him to go back to overnight shift work after a week, but on light duty only. Tidwell also stipulated to the school that he would not interact with any of the student residents. Yet shortly after his return to duty, he was asked to wake up the children at their usual time because the staff who usually did this, had not shown up for work. Having to interact with the students made Tidwell anxious and terrified that he might be assaulted again.

Tidwell was ordered by his doctor to see a psychiatrist and to stay away from work. Tidwell visited a psychiatrist for depression and during one of his visits, stated he was feeling suicidal, at which point he was admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. Depositions were taken from all the doctors who treated Tidwell for the physical and psychiatric injuries, which were then reviewed by the court.

The court found in favor of Tidwell in that he had suffered facial injuries while on the job, and that Tidwell had also become depressed, developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, the court awarded Tidwell $94167.60, based on the 11 percent permanent impairment rating, plus an additional five percent for psychiatric injuries and a 4.85 multiplier on a 72.75 percent vocational disability. Unpaid temporary disability benefits were also awarded at $32,360.00.

Traumatic Injuries

Traumatic injuries can be worse than the physical injuries sustained during assaults where violence is up-scaled higher than would be normal for a given situation. PTSD can take a long time for recovery and, in some cases, those affected never really recover, but learn to control and deal with the symptoms.

In school settings, events that likely lead to PTSD are school shootings, children assaulting other children, teenagers assaulting teachers in the classroom, particularly elderly teachers, continuous public and private bullying, and more.

When Teachers Revolt

In April of 2018, Arizona teachers went on a “walkout” to publicly address the concerns of overcrowded schools, old desks, dilapidated, outdated textbooks, along with complaints against low wages that rank Arizona teachers close to, or at the bottom throughout the United States. Included in the complaint besides the teachers, were school counselors, school cafeteria workers, school bus drivers, none of whom have seen raises or a change in school conditions for years.

Such conditions also create unhealthy environments for students and school staff alike, exacerbating distressful situations, which could lead to fighting among students in crowded classrooms and assaults against teachers, as well. A high rate of teacher turnovers indicates a system that is in trouble and, if not assisted, could lead to worse outcomes.

If you have been a victim of an assault on the job and need help with your workers’ compensation claim, call us at once for a consultation. 602-346-9009.

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