Baltimore, MD (WorkersCompensation.com) – Baltimore school cafeteria worker Tina Hill was injured after an alleged assault that involved students last week. The incident took place at the National Academy Foundation School of Baltimore, which serves grades six through 12. It is the second attack on a school employee that has been reported in Baltimore this month.
According to the Baltimore City School, the attack started when the cafeteria worker denied a student a carton of milk which was in direct adherence to school protocol. Hill says that the students were upset that day because they had only wanted milk and no food — which, in accordance to Hill, the food is also required under the free lunch program.
She told media outlets, “Most of the students know that and follow the rules. This particular day, the young lady wanted to be disrespectful and not follow the rules. So, when I went to confront her about taking the milk, the girl jumped up and wanted to fight.”
In a video recording, it shows Hill walking away from a crowd of students. When she turned her back, two girls assaulted her. Hill, who has been a cafeteria worker at the school for more than 20 years, was sent to the emergency room with a broken and bruised arm. “She grabbed our fruit off the counter and started throwing it in the kitchen at us,” Hill told news outlets, referring to one of the girls involved in the incident.
Baltimore City Public Schools Executive Director of Communication Anne Fullerton said in a statement, “Our thoughts are with her and her family during her recovery. Pending completion of investigations by school staff and City Schools police, the students involved will receive all appropriate consequences according to the law and the district’s code of conduct.”
The cafeteria worker is a member of the City Union of Baltimore (CUB). CUB President Antoinette Ryan-Johnson told media outlets, “We know students in our city grapple with a myriad of challenges each day before they even reach the school doors. That does not excuse violence against teachers and staff. CUB finds this violence against our members abhorrent and we will find a way to secure the safety of those who work in service to our city.”
In the next few weeks, the city and teachers’ unions will meet to assemble a task force. CUB reps hadn’t gotten back to WorkersCompensation.com as of press time.
Fullerton told WorkersCompensation.com, “Fighting and physical conflict must have no place in our schools. When such incidents occur, those who participate will receive consequences in accordance with the code of conduct, the law, or both. Our most important work is to ensure that schools are safe and positive places for teaching and learning. While the code of conduct outlines disciplinary response, the priority must be to manage and resolve conflict before it escalates to physical confrontation.”
She continued, “Programs including restorative practices, social-emotional learning, de-escalation, mediation, and conflict resolution are in place in many of our schools, and these efforts will continue and expand as we focus on creating school environments where both staff and students can thrive. In partnership with a Baltimore Teachers Union task force, that includes representatives from across the city, district staff will be working to promote positive behavior among our students and ensure safety for our staff and all members of our school communities.”
Besides the police department, school employees reported more injuries than any other city agency. More than one-third of the school system’s total workers’ compensation claims in 2012 were related to assaults on teachers or run-ins with students, according to a 2014 Baltimore Sun investigation.
One teacher that spoke with the Baltimore Sun during their investigations was Jennifer Jones, a third-grade teacher at Harford Heights Elementary School in East Baltimore. Jones ended up flat on her back In January 2013 after one of her students grabbed her leg and pulled it out from under her. After the assault she could not return to work.
During her interview, she said, “Every day it hurts like hell, and my life is forever changed.” She remains out of work and is attempting to obtain other benefits. “I can’t walk my dogs. I can’t do laundry. You eventually start to give up on the dishes. Every time I think about it now, I think the same thing when I was laying on the floor: Why?”
The Baltimore Sun work comp claims investigation also found that Jones was one of one hundred city educators and workers whose traumatic and violent encounters with students had often times led many to compensation requests for not only physical injuries, but also psychological injuries, which are rarely documented in school system reports.
Another Baltimore school employee was attacked just a day later after Hill. A physics teacher was punched by a 16-year-old 11th-grader, that had been upset over being given detention.