Former teacher urges public school staff to know their classroom safety rights

- Former educator Deb York has made it her life’s work to help teachers. After serving decades as an elementary school teacher herself with Edina Public Schools, York knows all too well the complex difficulties they face in classrooms.

“One of the reasons I’m doing this is to heal my soul because my teaching spirit was broken,” she told FOX 9.
York’s passion is driven by an experience that altered the course of her life while she taught at Countryside Elementary. 

In November 2009 York was assaulted by a first grade student with behavioral issues.

“I had to have total knee replacement, and go into a nursing home, had to have a walker but I also developed emotional distress and was certified with PTSD,” York shared of the ordeal’s lasting impact on her life.

“This little guy threw two chairs that day. Two chairs! One he swung and the other he threw,” she recalled, “he injured me such that it ended my career. That was it.”

Following endless questions, York emailed parents about her injury and class safety concerns at the time.

“That’s all I ever wanted to do…was teach; [it] was my whole life, my whole passion, working with kids and they took that away,” York said.

A data practices investigation ensued that year, and no disciplinary action was taken.

In 2011 York was granted a $100,000 settlement from the district.

“That was my family, that was my school family. It was the school up the streets… my kids had been there!” she exclaimed.

But York’s resignation only marked her newfound purpose.

“I want teachers across the state to know that this law is available to protect them and their kids.”

York championed a Minnesota law that passed last April. The law requires teachers be notified when a child with a violent past is placed in their classroom, gives them the right to remove unruly students and to seek district support.

“You should know what your rights are if you get injured,” Laurie McNamara, an Edina Public Schools nurse.

“I don’t know if the district’s been informed or how the information is getting to the people that need it,” McNamara also told FOX 9.

McNamara is among staff members eager to learn how district leaders across the state will enforce the new law, a law that’s been in effect now since September.

“It’s about doing something, about what happens to us to make a difference for others so this stops,” York stated.

Fox 9 did reach out to the Edina Public Schools’ district office Tuesday. They did not immediately return our phone calls. The Minnesota Federation of Teachers declined our request for an interview.

York’s ultimate goal is to see the law she championed turn into a federal protection for teachers and school staff.

You can find a link to the law here.

121A.53 REPORT TO COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.
Subdivision 1.

Exclusions and expulsions; physical assaults.

The school board must report through the department electronic reporting system each exclusion or expulsion and each physical assault of a district employee by a student within 30 days of the effective date of the dismissal action or assault to the commissioner of education. This report must include a statement of alternative educational services, or other sanction, intervention, or resolution in response to the assault given the pupil and the reason for, the effective date, and the duration of the exclusion or expulsion or other sanction, intervention, or resolution. The report must also include the student's age, grade, gender, race, and special education status.

Subd. 2.

Report.

(a) The school board must include state student identification numbers of affected pupils on all dismissal and other disciplinary reports required by the department. The department must report annually to the commissioner summary data on the number of dismissals and physical assaults of district employees by a student by age, grade, gender, race, and special education status of the affected pupils. All dismissal and other disciplinary reports must be submitted through the department electronic reporting system.
(b) The commissioner must aggregate the district data reported under this section and include the aggregated data, including aggregated data on physical assaults of a district employee by a student, in the annual school performance reports under section 120B.36.

EFFECTIVE DATE.
This section is effective for the 2016-2017 school year and later.

121A.64 NOTIFICATION; TEACHERS' LEGITIMATE EDUCATIONAL INTEREST.

(a) A classroom teacher has a legitimate educational interest in knowing which students placed in the teacher's classroom have a history of violent behavior, including any documented physical assault of a district employee by the student, and must be notified before such students are placed in the teacher's classroom.
(b) Representatives of the school board and the exclusive representative of the teachers shall discuss issues related to the model policy on student records adopted under Laws 1999, chapter 241, article 9, section 50, and any modifications adopted under Laws 2003, First Special Session chapter 9, for notifying classroom teachers and other school district employees having a legitimate educational interest in knowing about students with a history of violent behavior, including any documented physical assault of a district employee by students placed in classrooms. The representatives of the school board and the exclusive representative of the teachers also may discuss the need for intervention services or conflict resolution or training for staff related to placing students with a history of violent behavior in teachers' classrooms.

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective for the 2016-2017 school year and later.

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