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• Mark Keierleber reports widespread abuse of teachers of students with special needs, highlighting schools inability to serve these students and teachers properly.
• How can funders help schools ensure that students with special needs and their teachers have the support that they need?
At a ceremony in 2014 to honor Brett Bigham with Oregon’s Teacher of the Year award, he slouched over in his chair — hoping blood wouldn’t seep through his shirt.
Just days earlier, Bigham wrote in a 2018 op-ed, he had endured a brutal beating in his classroom, one that sent him to the hospital. On this occasion, he wrote, a student bit him and whipped him with a television cable. It was far from the first time he endured physical violence or death threats on the job. It wasn’t the first time a classroom injury sent him to the hospital, either.
He’s been bitten, punched and kicked. He was hit over the head with a chair so hard he quit teaching for seven years.
Bigham’s story is likely an extreme example of the challenges special education teachers face as schools struggle to adequately support children with special needs, like those living with significant trauma or other conditions that affect their ability to regulate behavior. But special education teachers from across the country responded to Bigham’s op-ed, saying they too had experienced violence on the job.
During the 2015-16 school year, 10 percent of teachers reported that students had threatened them with injury and 6 percent said they had been physically attacked, according to an April report by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Read the full article about the teachers of students with special needs by Mark Keierleber at The 74.