Alabama Education Association says student-teacher altercations hinder efforts to attract and retain teachers

WAFF's D'Quan Lee reporting
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 8:34 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Some students returned to class last week and have already reported at least one teacher injured by a student. But could the teacher file a lawsuit against the school for any injuries they suffer?

Experts say public school teachers can’t even file a personal injury claim, even if it’s due to a school’s negligence. Were told any teacher hurt on the job would have to file a claim with the state Board of Adjustments While public school systems have immunity against lawsuits, the Board of Adjustments would approve claims for teachers who have been hurt on the job.

The Board is made up of several elected positions such as the state auditor and the secretary of state. They have the final say in what teachers are compensated for, but attorney Bart Siniard says typically they’re limited in what they receive.

“It’s things like co-pays at the doctor’s office or mileage going to physical therapy or loss of income that you incur, but that’s really, in most instances, what you’re limited to, and that can be frustrating for teachers,” he said.

William Tunnell with Alabama Education Association says 40 percent of their teachers leave within the first five years on the job. He says dealing with behavioral issues with students is just one ingredient in the recipe causing this.

Overall, he says incidents involving classroom injuries are exceptions, not the norm, but school administrations’ support for teachers is a major factor in keeping teachers happy.

We have to make sure our administrators are protecting the rights of our members, of their employees -- at the same time respecting the rights of all of our students -- but no teacher should ever come to an Alabama classroom and expect to be hit, punched, kicked, or bitten while they’re performing their duties,” Tunell said. “It’s just not acceptable and school districts do have the mechanisms whereby they can alleviate that problem and assure their educators that you don’t have to get beat up from working.”

Tunnell says protecting teachers in the classroom is one of their points of emphasis as we start a new school year.

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