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Beaverton, OR: Student with ASD/ADHD assaults teachers; could it be prevented?

Sept 20, 2018, KGW8, Portland, OR: A special needs student assaults a teacher. Could anyone have prevented it? A Beaverton teenager with disabilities is in jail for seriously injuring his teacher. An investigation found the teacher was unaware of key details about the teen's condition before the attack. When a school resource officer arrived at the assault scene at Beaverton High School on Jan. 11, he found a jumble of tables and chairs flipped over and tossed about in a special education classroom. Staff attended to a 60-year-old teacher near the front of the room. A tall, 18-year-old student sat in the back…. A grand jury indicted Nelson on felony assault charges. To avoid a jury trial and potential six-year prison stay, Nelson took a plea deal and is currently serving a nine-month sentence at the Washington County Jail. The singular incident sheds light on troubling trends taking place at schools nationwide. Teachers report being assaulted by students at high rates, while special needs students are far more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Instead of boosting funding for special education programs, school districts often have fewer staff members year after year. Teacher advocates say many public schools don’t provide proper training for teachers, especially those working with kids who have disabilities. Nelson, who has autism, anxiety disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, says he flipped over furniture and then separated himself from people by moving across the classroom, as he was taught to do when he gets overwhelmed. … Interviews and documents show Nelson has a history of violent outbursts, but Brown was unaware of key details about her student’s file and diagnosis. The assault at Beaverton High School ended in tragedy for both Brown and Nelson. Could anything have prevented the attack?... “He has a history of hitting, strangling, throwing things, and running away,” a teacher wrote after he fought with another student in the 4th grade. “Afterwards he is very sorry for what he has done, he knows what is right and wrong, but he can’t control himself when his anger flares – and it can be triggered without warning.” Special education students in schools are twice as likely to be suspended, expelled and arrested than their peers. It’s a troubling trend the National Council on Disability calls the “school-to-prison pipeline for students with disabilities.” The federal agency says school districts can address the problem by developing early warning systems to identify special needs students at risk of discipline and incarceration. Beaverton School District, which has about 5,000 special education students out of 41,000 students total, would not release statistics on disciplinary action for special education students, as their records are confidential. Teachers are also at risk of violence at the hands of their students. A 2016 national study found that 6 percent of U.S. public school teachers reported being physically attacked by a student in the past year. More teachers may not be reporting assaults. An anonymous survey conducted by the Oregon School Employees Association asked nearly 2,000 teachers and school staff members from 106 Oregon districts whether they had been assaulted at school. Sixty percent said they had, and more than 50 percent said they felt their school was not adequately staffed to protect students and teachers from workplace assaults. There is little data on special education students attacking teachers, but OSEA says they often hear from teachers who were assaulted by students with disabilities. “They don’t want to do anything because by reporting these injuries, they could get that child in trouble,” said Michael Plett, spokesman for OSEA. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of special needs students in Oregon increased by 6 percent. In that same time, the number of special education teachers dropped by 5 percent. “Schools need to invest in staffing to prevent attacks,” Plett said.

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