Taskforce meets in Illinois House of Representatives to discuss school violence

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – The Illinois House Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force met with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Association of School Social Workers, and the Illinois Safe School Alliance today. 

Administrators who attended the meeting said there has been an increase in school violence since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They cited nationwide surveys that showed 37% of administrators have experienced verbal abuse or threatening behavior. 

ShiAnne Shively, a member of the Illinois Education Association shared stories from teachers on the abuse they have experienced. This story is from an elementary teacher in Southern Illinois:

“Student A wrapped his headphone cord around student B’s neck and called him the B word. Student A hit a teacher in the arm repeatedly and told her he wanted to kill her. Student A was tossing a desk and kicked the teacher out of anger. This has been a repeated offense. Student A approached another student in the lunchroom and hit him on the forehead. He then went up to another student and hit the student in the groin resulting in a major injury. Student A hit his paraprofessional, 10 times and his teacher four times.”

Shively also shared this story, from a Special Education Paraprofessional in Central Illinois: 

“I was sitting next to a student and I had a visual prompt card on a lanyard around my neck. I showed the cards instead of talking and the student got upset and pulled on the lanyard so hard that the metal ring broke, but the lanyard was still around my neck. This resulted in three shoulder surgeries and 123 physical therapy sessions and this issue is still not taken care of.” 

The teachers said many of the issues stem from a confusion about school discipline as well as a lack of staff. They say this partially comes from Illinois Senate Bill 100, which requires schools to minimizes actions like suspension and expulsion. 

Sean Denney, the Director of Government Relations at the Illinois Education Association, says the bill has useful recommendations, but schools don’t have the staff available to implement them. 

“This is a work in progress and we’re still trying to get all the pieces in place,” said Denney.

Many of the issues are credited to school threat assessments. These are usually performed by mental health professionals, administrators, school resource officers, and sometimes law enforcement officers. 

Denney said these steps cannot be taken without the proper staff. This means many situations are not taken care of correctly. 

If a threat assessment protocol team is in place, that would have been the proper place for that to get handled,” said Denney. ”It would have been handled by administrators, community members, law enforcement, social workers.” 

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November 17, 2022 at 06:45PM

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