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Paraprofessionals Face Dangers Related to Special Education Work

Posted by Brian Spence on Jan 14, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Special Education, ParaprofessionalJamie Moffitt always dreamed she'd work with children as an educator. The Tooele County resident was excited when a substitute teaching position opened up at Rose Springs Elementary in Erda, Utah.

However, staff members warned Moffitt that her first day could be rough. Some teachers told her to change into durable clothing, and others advised her to take out her earrings since a special education student could rip them out. She wasn't deterred by their warnings. The educator enjoyed her first day on the job, and the principal offered her a full-time position by lunchtime. Moffitt accepted a paraprofessional job where she only made $600 a month. 

According to Utah news station KUTV, Moffitt didn't know that she had just signed up for one of the most dangerous school jobs in the state.

Special Education Professionals Face Job-Related Dangers

KUTV requested Workers' Compensation claims from the state's school district. Their reporters discovered special education work is dangerous. The station analyzed three years of data from the largest school districts: Alpine, Granite, and Canyons. Seventy percent of 400 cases involved students who assaulted special education staff or teachers.

Moffitt was thrilled to work at the school. Her feelings later changed when school officials assigned her to work with one of Tooele County's most challenging students. The child assaulted her on a daily basis. After six months, Moffitt experienced extreme violence. The student bit her and pulled her hair more than 100 times. She's also suffered three concussions and went to the hospital three times. Moffitt says the school never trained her to work with special needs children.

The Nation Has a Critical Shortage of Trained Special Education Teachers

The Tooele School District special education director Mat Jackson claims Moffitt received training. He provided no documentation that she received it. Jackson said that the paraprofessional wasn't a good fit for the position, although he later admitted that the school had no problems with her work. Moffitt believes the school kept her because they had no one to do the job.

Jackson says the district has a shortage of special education teachers. They have 75 professionals but need 100. Tooele isn't the only county facing this problem. There's a national shortage of special education teachers and assistants. Eventually, Moffitt received training but quit after her most recent concussion. She's sad she can no longer work with students. Moffitt believes she would still be in the classroom if she received proper training.

If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health and Education sections of our blog.


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