A group of special education teachers in Prince George's County asked the Board of Education last night to institute a disciplinary code for special education students, who they said often hit and otherwise abuse teachers.
While regular school students in the county must adhere to a code of conduct, special education students are not required to abide by those rules, the teachers said. The students often go unpunished for physically attacking teachers, they said.
"I have been hit, kicked, bit and pushed," said Patricia Robbins, a special education teacher at Duckworth Special Center in Beltsville.
It was the second time in two weeks that the problems of special education teachers were raised to board members. Last week, the Prince George's County Educators Association asked the board to protect teachers from contagious diseases they might catch from students, including hepatitis, herpes and cytomegalovirus.
Teachers also complained last night that they are expected to administer medical procedures, including giving injections, for which they are not trained. They also said they often must lift heavy wheelchair-bound students. The teachers asked the board to hire orderlies to help lift these students.
"We accept the unique challenge of our job, but we're tired of being martyrs," said Sandy Berenbaum, a teacher at Hillcrest Heights Special Center.
Another teacher asked that the board provide help so teachers could spend less time on custodial care and more on teaching. "We have teachers making $20,000 to $30,000 with master's degrees in special education, spending half their day in the bathroom" changing diapers and cleaning potty chairs, said Cathy Larner, a teacher at Margaret Brent Special Center.
In other business, board Chairman Angelo Castelli introduced two proposals to help improve teachers' wages. One calls for paying teachers extra for helping students with academic subjects before and after school, and the second would establish a committee to study teachers' salaries. The board must still agree on whether to send the proposals to Superintendent John A. Murphy.
Teachers' salaries in Prince George's are 7 percent lower than those in Montgomery County, according to the Prince George's educators association.