Teacher safety has become an issue in many school districts. Teachers are increasingly becoming the victims of assaults in schools. Statistics show that the number of assaults have increased in recent years and that is taking a toll on teachers.  While many school districts have taken prudent measures to protect teachers, one district in Akron, Ohio is taking another approach. This approach is not sitting well with teachers and could possibly trigger a strike.

The administration at the Akron Schools are not proposing any increased security or anything that would protect teachers. Instead, they are proposing that the definition of “assault” be changed — and that will reduce assaults.

Of course, no rational person would buy into that.

More specifically, the district is pushing for a change in the language that would make “physical injury” a prerequisite to it being an assault. So, if a teacher is “assaulted” but does not come away with bruises, broken bones, or other physical injury, it would not be an “assault.”

In other words, if the assaulting student isn’t competent enough to cause injury, then the teacher is without any recourse.

One might think that this would allow the student to “try, try, again” if at first they “don’t succeed.”

But for the district, they would be able to tout improved numbers — as if eliminating the failed assaults would say that things are improving in Akron. They wouldn’t be, but the redefined numbers would allow the board and administration to claim such a victory.

This is what the administration is proposing in Akron:

The Employer also proposes changes to the definition of physical assault, arguing that
the current definition is too broad. The CBA requires that in the event of a “physical
assault”, the student must be recommended for expulsion and that the principal shall
notify the Akron Police Department to enable the member to file a police report. These
actions can be too harsh for instances that fall under the current definition of physical
assault which reference physical “contact” vs. physical “injury”. The District argues that
Ohio’s statutory definition of assault requires a person to knowingly cause or attempt
“physical harm”. Other Ohio urban districts, (Columbus City Schools, Toledo City
Schools, Dayton City Schools, Canton City Schools, and Cleveland Metropolitan
Schools) require some type of injury to be considered physical assault. (Employer
Exhibit #34)
Further, a student’s action could be deemed a physical assault if it has the “potential” to
harm the staff member or the “potential” to interfere with the member’s performance of
duties. There is no way to quantify whether the “potential” existed

The union’s response can best be summed up with the 1st line of their response to the proposal:

The Union rejects all of the Employer’s requested changes.

Unfortunately, a third party “fact-finder” is siding with the administration. They, like the administration seem to be caught up in legalities and language than teacher safety.

Changing definitions won’t improve safety. And this situation is extremely unfortunate with one side caught up in legalities and making statistics look better and the other side is simply not wanting to be assaulted.

Of course, teachers being assaulted isn’t just an issue in Akron, as the video below illustrates.