Schools Take Steps to Ensure Teacher Safety in Classrooms

Bismarck - Teacher Safety is a hot button issue after several educators cited incidents of violence  from kids in the classroom.

Now, Bismarck Public Schools is just one district that is responding to growing concerns with more training and teacher support.

Walking the halls teachers are faced with new challenges every day.

"Our goal is to be able to intervene early so that we don't ever get to a crisis situation," Jennifer Moore, special education teacher for Bismarck Public Schools says.

But what happens when conflict in the classroom leads to violence?

"Safety's job [number] one," Tamara Uselman,  superintendent for Bismarck Public Schools says.

Bismarck Public Schools reports last year, out of 2,000 BPS employees, 49 incidents were reported to a workforce safety officer. 

Out of those 49 reports, 10 were serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.

But the issue goes far beyond North Dakota. 

Nationally, nine percent of school teachers reported being threatened with injury by students in schools, according to the National Center for Education.

They also say, five percent of teachers actually reported being physically attacked.

During teacher negotiations this summer, one former BPS teacher says, it was an unsafe environment that pushed her to leave the classroom. 

Other teachers cited physical injuries including being stabbed in the leg by a scissor. 

Superintendent Tamara Uselman says the district is responding to the problem.

"It's important to have plans for staff to know how their own safety is ensured," Uselman says.

So BPS is taking action and training teachers how to react and who to call in an emergency situation, starting with being aware of any odd behavior from students.

In the hopes giving teachers the training and support they need keeps them and their students safe every time they step into the classroom.

"I try to pay attention to nonverbal body language from all my students," Cory Volk, South Central High School science teacher says.

All BPS teachers are trained on how to verbally deescalate disruptive behavior and if a situation gets physical they know who to call for backup.

"Our CPI teams are trained to have a higher level of skill in terms of verbal deescalation and if they need physical intervention," Moore says.

CPI, or nonviolent crisis intervention teams, can step in and properly physically restrain or isolate a child.

BPS reports last year, less than one percent of students were involved in incidents where they were restrained or isolated.

"We have a specific set of processes to try and deal with the student so they don't harm themselves or other people," Uselman says.

Having a team prepared for whatever situation may come their way.

"The most important thing is keeping the most kids as safe as possible," Volk says.

Working to keep both teachers and students safe in school.

Superintendent Uselman says if a teacher does have a safety concern they're encouraged to report it to their principal or to their workforce safety officer.

BPS is not alone with teachers reporting physical altercations. 

We called three other school districts in our area, Dickinson, Minot, and Williston Public Schools, but they did not get back to us in time for our broadcast.

Mandan Public Schools said 13 claims were reported to Workforce Safety involving school staff and students.


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