"We are an inter-city school district with numerous problems of economic stress, parental abandonment and peer conflict," says Tom Dolan, HISD claims manager.
Texas--like other states such as Michigan, New Jersey and Oregon--has an assault leave law that the district must follow when any type of assault is reported. That means the employee who's out on leave is essentially treated like he is still working and not as a workers' comp case. He or she receives full salary and benefits, like accruing sick days.
"The salary continues, so they lose motivation to get back to work," Dolan says.
The school district, as necessary, handles any disciplinary action against the perpetrator and pays the injured employee's medical and psychological recovery process.
"The incidence of injury from assault results in many emotions, to include embarrassment, feelings of abandonment, anger, depression, fear of reprisal and, in some incidences, true posttraumatic stress syndrome," Dolan says.
Fortunately, not all the incidents are intentional and some are just reckless activity. For example, a student can be running down the hall and accidentally slams into a teacher, who falls, hitting his head on a door.
Or, while a child with multiple sclerosis is flailing his hands around, he accidentally hits his aide in the face.
"Sometimes it's truly an accident, and nine out of 10 times they won't report it," explains Dolan.
But more serious injuries could mean an employee is out of work for a long time, even when it's questionable. For example, an assault case can require psychiatric care for years.
SUSAN GUREVITZ lives in Philadelphia.
November 1, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications