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Special School Teachers Scared Of Being Bitten

April 15, 2009

I’d like to blog about special education yet again today.

Teachers who work in special schools are, apparently, scared of being bitten by pupils. So scared, in fact, that they’re buying their own tetanus and hepititis injections.

The Nasuwt teachers’ union conference heard calls for protection against pupil violence in schools for children with special educational needs.

Being a person who had special educational needs and, for a short time, attended a special school, I am surprised  and more than a little upset that teachers feel that children with special needs can be violent. I think I can safely say that children who attend special schools because of physical disabilities, as I did, are mostly unable to be violent because they are unable to move at all. Some people with physical disabilities make large, sudden movements that they can’t control, but that’s exactly the point. Such movements, and their effects, are uncontrollable and, therefore, unintentional. I personally doubt that those who, like me, do have good and controlled movement would ever intentionally behave violently towards anyone at school- or anywhere else.

I can, however, see that children who attend special schools as a result of behavioural problems may behave violently towards  their teachers, or even towards other children in the class.

 Teachers say that one of the main problems they face in special classrooms is biting.

One leading teacher, Suzanne Nantcurvis, says I’ve sat in the staff room of a special school listening to teachers nonchalantly talking about the number of times they had been assaulted; their daily experiences of being kicked and bitten and their visits to the hospital outpatients department.

The government said no teacher should have to do their job in fear of attack.

Well, of course they shouldn’t. Just as no one should have to do their job in fear of anyone or anything. Just as no child should have to be at school in fear of other children or teachers.

However, I  have some comments to make on this. The government has, conveniently, not forgotten about the legal duty of care that employers have to their staff. But what about the duty of care that all teachers, in mainstream schools as well as special ones, have to their students? I would like to remind special school teachers of something very important. 

Children with behavioural difficulties who attend special schools do so for very good reasons. Their behaviour in the classroom is a result of frustration at  the difficulties they face, either with their schoolwork  or emotionally. The violence, and the pain they cause their teachers, and other children, is not intentional.  These children need their teachers to make every possible effort to understand and support them. To be a good special school teacher, you need to show extreme sensitivity to issues like this one. 

Protecting themselves from violence is understandable. However, if these teachers are truly scared of special needs children despite realising that this behaviour is unintentional, then maybe they should seriously consider finding new jobs in mainstream schools.

This post is part of the Inclusion Rules! debate at Same Difference.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 8:35 am

    I’ll link this, but I can’t say I agree. Having done a lot of work both with adults with learning difficulties and with people with mental illnesses, I’d have to say it makes perfect sense to be frightened of behaviours that you know are unintentional, but which can still cause serious harm. As far as I can see, the teachers are just asking for vaccination against diseases that they may get from being bitten, not saying or doing anything that shows any disrespect for the children.

  2. samedifference1 permalink
    April 16, 2009 9:06 am

    Thanks for your comments Andrew.

  3. April 16, 2009 9:11 am

    I notice they don’t say how many teachers, in actual numbers or a frequency, actually have this ‘fear’. It could be one person who has dealt with a student who is violent in that way, and a handful of people who are sadly prejudiced dispite their chose profession (one can still be a prejudiced patronising git even if oe does work with disabled people).

  4. samedifference1 permalink
    April 16, 2009 2:38 pm

    Good point, Debi. Thanks for commenting.

  5. April 16, 2009 5:45 pm

    I have to agree with Andrew. I don’t think that teachers are being unfair or cruel when the highlight the violence perpetrated by some. They are not saying that children with physical disabilities are naturally violent, just that a few can be.

  6. samedifference1 permalink
    April 16, 2009 7:12 pm

    Thanks for commenting Rumbold.

  7. April 17, 2009 2:17 am

    This post is completely non-sequitous. Teachers are looking to take measures to reduce the personal risks they face as a result of being bitten (note Hep can be a life log and life ruining disease).

    Your post contains evidence that biting/assault is an issue facing said teachers.

    You then say that such behaviour is unintentional. Well fair enough. But that doesn’t reduce the harm and risk potentially facing teachers. If a teacher is bitten by somebody with behavioural problems, they are not going to be at less risk because said behavioural problems are not the fault of the child concerned.

  8. samedifference1 permalink
    April 17, 2009 10:56 am

    Thanks for commenting Reuben.

    Of course I know that the child’s problems and the behaviour being unintentional doesn’t lessen the risk to teachers. I never said it did. I’m only saying that the duty of care goes both ways and this is something special school teachers need to think about.

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