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Know your rights
Reporting safety incidents — and receiving support
Has your car ever been vandalized when it was parked near your school while you were at work? Have you had a personal item stolen in school? Were you pushed — on purpose or by accident — while in a hallway or stairwell?
If these or similar incidents have happened to you, you need to know your rights so you can protect yourself, get the assistance you need and help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Under the UFT contract and the Chancellor’s Regulations, you have:
the right to report every incident; and
the right to receive appropriate support.
School safety specialists and Victim Support Program coordinators in the UFT borough offices can help you navigate the Department of Education bureaucracy and provide advice and support services if you should become the victim of an assault or a serious incident.
Your right to report
Principals are required to report all incidents to the DOE, and school safety agents are required to report all crimes to police. Unfortunately, some principals do not always follow the rules or fulfill those obligations.
That’s why the right of UFT members to report incidents is so important: UFT members have the right to report every safety or discipline incident to the DOE as well as to the union. These incidents may include assaults, threats, violent or dangerous behavior and even minor infractions such as classroom disruptions.
By exercising your right to report, you give your school and your union a powerful weapon in the fight for school safety. Your school-based reports provide useful information for your School Safety Committee to determine what safety issues need to be addressed. Your confidential reports to the UFT provide the union with an independent stream of information so we, too, will have the evidence we need to flag problems that might go unnoticed if the principal does not report all incidents.
It’s also wise to promptly report an incident to your chapter leader. This will activate the services of your UFT district representative, the school safety specialists in your borough office and the Victim Support Program.
The report forms you should file
If you become the victim of a school-related assault or incident, notify your principal and make sure he or she files a DOE Online Occurrence Report within 24 hours.
Also, if you are injured, fill out and file a DOE Comprehensive Injury Report within 24 hours. If you are unable to write the report due to an injury you have sustained, your chapter leader and/or a colleague can write it for you.
If you have been assaulted, you should make sure that your principal has also notified the DOE’s Office of Legal Services at 1-212-374-6888.
Make sure that your union knows about the safety incident, too, by filing a UFT School Safety/Discipline Report. The easiest way is to file a report online at www.uft.org/safety-complaint. You can also get a safety reporting form from your chapter leader or borough office and fax it to 1-212-677-6612.
If the situation is an emergency, seek medical attention immediately, if necessary, and call the UFT Safety and Health Hotline at 1-212-701-9407. Keep a copy of every form that you file for your records.
Visit the UFT website at www.uft.org/our-rights/school-safety for more information on the subject.
Receiving appropriate support
By filing these reports, you activate a number of support programs and services.
Your chapter leader and district representative can explain your rights with respect to any absences that may result from the injury or assault.
Each borough office has school safety specialists and Victim Support Program representatives who can tell you about support services and the possible legal and medical consequences of any incident. They can advocate on your behalf with the DOE, request a medical leave of absence and discuss your right to sue and bring charges. All of these services are confidential and tailored to fit your personal needs.
The UFT Victim Support Program (at 1-212-598-6853) can provide psychological counseling, referrals and violence prevention training.
If, as a result of injuries sustained during an incident, you received injury-in-the-line-of-duty status from the medical bureau, the DOE will reimburse you up to $750 for medical expenses not paid by your insurance carrier (Article 3H of the contract). The $750 limit is waived for assault victims.
If you are regularly appointed and have been denied injury-in-the-line-of-duty status for more than 20 consecutive days, you are entitled to have a medical arbitration to determine if the medical bureau acted correctly. Speak to your UFT borough office immediately upon learning of the denial to ensure timely filing if you want to pursue this course of action.
If personal property “of a kind normally worn or brought into school” was damaged, stolen or destroyed while you were on duty or on a school trip and you have not been negligent, the DOE must reimburse you for up to $100 for expenses not covered by insurance to replace the property.
After filing a UFT School Safety/Discipline Report, you have the option to bring the union’s school safety specialists to your school to help your chapter address the underlying conditions responsible for the incident. They can conduct a safety assessment, hold safety workshops or recommend changes in your school safety plan.
School safety is everyone’s responsibility. Reporting incidents is an essential part of the process.