Teacher shares story of classroom injury hoping for change

When Debbie York got into teaching, she never imagined her lifelong passion for molding young people would leave her with workplace injuries you might expect from the gridiron.

"It was heartbreaking, it was tough," York told FOX 9 on Tuesday. "The date was Nov. 9, 2009."

In a day that would leave her in need of a spinal bone fusion on her neck and total knee replacements in both knees, York says, "I was assaulted by a student in my classroom." An 85-pound first-grader who went on a tirade… throwing chairs around the classroom before violently body slamming her.

"The anger out of nowhere was spontaneous," York said. "The kids all saw it, the room was packed with first-graders, two of them were crying, one of them was screaming, a little girl had a bruise."

That was York’s final day in the classroom. She would eventually retire from teaching. 

But years later she rediscovered her voice by working to prevent other teachers from going through what she did.

"In 2016 we passed a number of laws," York said. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act requires any injuries in the classroom to be reported – a game-changer York says because often teachers were unaware of the history of violent students.

"There’s a lot of injuries that aren’t reported," York said. But York fears the legislation isn’t being acted upon; she says many teachers aren’t aware it even exists.

"Everything fell apart," York said.  "Teachers were not told in the state about it, it kind of fell through the rug."

Now she feels the need to rebuild it from the ground up, "My hope and dream is that we can get a poster in every single school in the state," York explained. 

More than a decade after her own attack, York says the problem has grown worse because of the pandemic, and she’s hearing all about it from teachers: "These kids are coming to school and they’re angry."

Her new push to revamp laws in the state would also call for an anonymous hotline where teachers can report trouble in the classroom.

"I’ve never given up, it’s sort of been my life, it’s become my life and it in a good way it helped me heal," York finished.