MSGIA – Student-Caused Injury Prevention Strategies
By Shawn Bubb, MTSBA/MSGIA Director of Insurance Operations
We read a lot of injury reports here at MSGIA and can get a little numb from seeing many similar losses from season to season and year to year. But, by stepping back and looking at common losses, we can anticipate problems and, in turn, identify ways of addressing the root causes for many injuries. Granted, we can’t prevent all of them, of course; but I do believe that we can trim the numbers by utilizing some sound prevention strategies.
One area in particular wherein we have identified patterns and unwelcome trends pertains to injuries associated with student interactions with staff. Increasingly, students are contributing – either intentionally or unintentionally – to injury rates for many school staff, most notably for paraprofessionals and classroom teachers.
A recently published article on this problem provides the following terms for discussing and better understanding and, hopefully, predicting and preventing potentially problematic behaviors:
- The Tugger: When a student holding your hand suddenly tugs hard unexpectedly, s/he can cause a number of different kinds of injuries, including injuries to the arm, shoulder, and/or back. Preventing these injuries is fairly easily. Simply hold the student’s forearm instead of their hand. By holding them instead of having them hold onto you, you can better avoid the unexpected yank.
- The Dropper: When a student drops unexpectedly to the floor, the effect of their full weight and the attendant jerking motion can injure your arm, shoulder, and/or back. Sometimes it is not the dropping motion so much as it the subsequent effort to pick up the student after they refuse to get off the floor that causes the injury. In these instances, utilizing good body positioning when assisting the student back to their feet should help prevent injuries. Of course, both issues can be avoided in most cases if you follow the guidelines associated with holding the student’s arm rather than having them hold your hand.
- The Head Butt: School staff need to be alert to a student beginning to move into an agitated state. If staff sense this is about to occur, they need to make sure there is proper spacing between them and the student; or they need to approach the student from the side, as opposed to straight on. This can help disarm the student inclined to bite in these situations.
- The Runner: At times students may feel they need to flee the classroom or area where your group is. Before reacting to the situation by chasing, be sure you have thought through the best course of action with your building Principal and considered any district policies and plans on this topic. And when/if a student does flee, try to understand the reasons why so that, when time allows for more preventive measures to be taken, you can identify those factors that help susceptible students to feel more settled and comfortable in the particular type of situation, group, or activity so that you can provide an alternate response to running.
- The Battering Ram: Some students, usually agitated ones, may come at you from behind and knock you down. One simple strategy in these situations entails not turning your back on the agitated student. Another involves maintaining eye contact, which often has a calming effect on the student.
- Kicker/Scratcher/Biter/and Object Thrower: Simply put, these distressed students seek to inflict harm or pain. To deal with scratchers and biters, in particular, it helps to wear Kevlar sleeves. It also helps, when possible, to keep your distance and to understand what commonly triggers the outburst for the student. Addressing the root causes of student frustration will likely result in better long-term outcomes.
To help prevent these types of injuries, on our Safe Schools Platform the MSGIA provides all members access to a range of short and targeted training sessions. A number of the most relevant and impactful training include 1) Special Education – Safety in the Classroom; 2) Working Safely with Students with Special Needs; and, 3) Special Education Aides – Safety and Injury Prevention. These behavior management trainings target key issues and provide foundational knowledge for injury prevention. They focus on proper interactions with students with behavioral challenges, and, in particular, they offer guidance in the form of Self-Regulating skills for elementary students as well as on Managing Challenging Behaviors and De-escalation Strategies. While there are over 300 great courses on the Safe Schools platform, these six, in particular, provide strategies designed to help prevent injuries to our school district employees.
Your school district safety efforts are very important to us at the MSGIA, please give us a call at 1.877.667.7392 to get started on updating your school plans for this year. Return to newsletter