Student-inflicted injuries to staff in schools: comparing risk between educators and non-educators

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Abstract

Objective

Student-inflicted injury to staff in the educational services sector is a growing concern. Studies on violence have focused on teachers as victims, but less is known about injuries to other employee groups, particularly educational assistants. Inequities may be present, as educational assistants and non-educators may not have the same wage, benefits, training and employment protections available to them as professional educators. We identified risk factors for student-related injury and their characteristics among employees in school districts.

Methods

Workers’ compensation data were used to identify incidence and severity of student-related injury. Rates were calculated using negative binomial regression; risk factors were identified using multivariate models to calculate rate ratios (RR) and 95% CIs.

Results

Over 26% of all injuries were student-related; 8% resulted in lost work time. Special and general education assistants experienced significantly increased risk of injury (RR=6.0, CI 5.05 to 7.15; RR=2.07, CI 1.40 to 3.07) as compared with educators. Risk differed by age, gender and school district type. Text analyses categorised student-related injury. It revealed injury from students acting out occurred most frequently (45.4%), whereas injuries involving play with students resulted in the highest percentage of lost-time injuries (17.7%) compared with all interaction categories.

Conclusion

Student-inflicted injury to staff occurs frequently and can be severe. Special education and general assistants bear the largest burden of injury compared with educators. A variety of prevention techniques to reduce injury risk and severity, including policy or environmental modifications, may be appropriate. Equal access to risk reduction methods for all staff should be prioritised.

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