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Terrified Teacher Will Have Her Day in High Court

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            A teacher, who says she’s suffered P.T.S.D. after 3 students became verbally and physically aggressive with her, will have her case heard by the NJ Supreme Court. In April of this year an Appellate Division court stated in a split decision she was not entitled to the higher rate of benefits she sought. Due to that split decision she was automatically allowed to seek an appeal of the ruling.

            According to Judges George Leone and Francis Vernoia, Jacklyn Thompson who worked at North Hunterdon High School at the time of the incidents was not entitled to the added benefits she sought because the claim was not precipitated by a ‘terrifying or horror inducing events.’

            In his dissent, Judge Mitchel Ostrer said that the events Jacklyn Thompson experienced would qualify as ‘terrifying or horror-inducing events.’

            The incidents in question, which happened in 2011, involved 3 students in a special need class. The first, when Thompson attempted to intervene for a teacher’s aide a 17-year-old with Down syndrome punched her in the stomach and slapped her across the face. The second when a teacher’s aide was threatened by a 16-year-old with schizophrenia and autism, Thompson attempted to intervene but the student pushed her by the shoulders. Lastly, a 15-year-old boy with autism hit another student with a ball, Jaclyn admonished him for his behavior. He became verbally threatening and pinned her arms behind her back and attempted to punch her but she was able to dodge.   

            Additionally in his dissent, Ostrer made a point of mentioning that Thompson had received no training or handling techniques for aggressive disabled students and had submitted a request for additional learning in better helping the disruptive students but was denied.

            The difference between the traditional benefits Thompson currently receives or the accidental disability benefits she seeks is 43% vs 66 % of the subject’s former salary.

            Do you believe that Thompson should be granted the additional benefits? Is this something she should have been prepared for having gone into the teaching field? How should the courts best protect our teachers?

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