Educational assistant wins mental stress benefits

Frequent assaults by special needs student were traumatic and not an expected part of the job: Tribunal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

Physical abuse from a special needs student is beyond what is expected in the job of an educational assistant who is entitled to benefits for mental stress, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has ruled.

The worker was hired by an Ontario school board in 2001 and became an educational assistant (EA) for “intensive support for low incidence-high risk needs (developmental disabilities, physical disabilities” a year later. This category of EA qualified the worker to assist students with physical disabilities requiring assistive devices such as feeding tubes or catheters.

The worker was placed in a special education class with six students and one teacher around 2006. The classed included some violent students, including one who was moved to another school and one who remained in the class. The latter student sometimes acted violently towards students and adults, including scratching, kicking and “spraying snot,” according to the worker. Sometimes weeks went by without any violent behaviour, so it was considered manageable.