Archive for Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Husband of slain social worker urges safety training, criticizes lawmaker

A grieving husband says he will never give up the fight to protect social workers.

March 24, 2009


Matt Zenner, husband of slain social worker Teri Zenner, speaks at a news conference in favor of a bill that would require self-protection training for social workers. Teri Zenner was brutally murdered in 2004 by a client she was visiting. Also at the news conference, from second left, are Matt Zenner’s daughter, Alayna Zenner, of Olathe; his father, Mike Zenner of Lenexa; and Andy Mathis, of Gardner, who is Teri Zenner’s father.

Matt Zenner, husband of slain social worker Teri Zenner, speaks at a news conference in favor of a bill that would require self-protection training for social workers. Teri Zenner was brutally murdered in 2004 by a client she was visiting. Also at the news conference, from second left, are Matt Zenner’s daughter, Alayna Zenner, of Olathe; his father, Mike Zenner of Lenexa; and Andy Mathis, of Gardner, who is Teri Zenner’s father.

— The husband of a slain social worker urged lawmakers on Tuesday to approve a bill that would require safety training for social workers.

Matt Zenner, of Lenexa, whose wife, Teri Zenner, was brutally murdered in 2004 while visiting a client, also blamed state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, for not allowing a vote on the legislation.

“This woman has single-handedly started a process to kill this bill,” Zenner said of Landwehr. “She is not worried about their (social workers’) safety,” he said during a news conference.

Landwehr said she opposed the bill because she believed self-protection training for social workers should be part of their degree training in college or continuing education, but not a state requirement. She said she didn’t want the requirement to be put into state law because then the state would be responsible for overseeing a training program for a profession.

But Zenner and Sky Westerlund, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said many states have acted quickly in implementing self-defense training requirements after violent attacks on social workers.

Westerlund said her group has made concessions to reduce the scope of the bill to limit it to requiring self-protection training within the first two years of becoming a licensed social worker. There are approximately 6,000 social workers in Kansas.

In August 2004, Teri Zenner, 26, a social worker and Kansas University graduate student, was attacked with a knife and chainsaw by Andrew Ellmaker, 20, of Overland Park. Zenner, who worked for the Johnson County Mental Health Center, was visiting Ellmaker’s house to make sure he was taking his medication.

Ellmaker had been diagnosed with schizotypal, a personality disorder, and had been committed four times to a mental institution.

In 2007, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.

Since then, Matt Zenner has fought for more awareness of violence done to social workers.

“The state of Kansas has done nothing to protect social workers,” he said.


canyon_wren 9 years, 3 months ago

What a lame excuse Landwehr offers for opposing the bill! It seems to me that self-protection training for social workers SHOULD be the responsibility of the state. I should think that a course offered in college or through continuing ed would not be sufficiently specific or comprehensive to do the job. I suspect Landwehr supports many bills which would be less worthy of the Legislature's approval.

I applaud Mr. Zenner's diligence in pursuing this matter and hope he doesn't give up.

Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years, 3 months ago

Thought of that movie also md. Goodluck Mr. Zenner

Confrontation 9 years, 3 months ago

This training should be completely up to the agency where the social worker is employed. Should the state provide this training for every professional that comes into contact with crazy people? Gas station workers? High School basketball refs? Teachers? By the way, not all social workers work in a type of environment where they should be required to take personal safety training. Zenner's wife should've received this training at her place of employment.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 years, 3 months ago

What prohibits social workers from getting a concealed carry permit? Were I a social worker, I would surely have one. Thank you, Lynn

trinity 9 years, 3 months ago

i agree wholeheartedly, confrontation-each agency should make the determination about safety training.

and there is nothing that prohibits social workers from obtaining a c/c permit; however-agencies have pretty strict standards about actually carrying. it's pretty much a no-no.

snowsleep 9 years, 3 months ago

I do think that A LOT of work needs to be done in raising awareness on behalf of social workers and concerns for their safety.

Does the state require training for police officers? Because social workers are exposed to just as much violence/potential violence as police officers. It must be addressed.

There is no reason on earth why someone should have to be exposed to that kind of violence, regardless of their profession. So, how are we going to protect social workers, and subsequently, our own social environment?

HW 9 years, 3 months ago

Lynn They could get a concealed carry permit, but most agencies have policies prohibiting their employees from carrying a firearm.

LawmomX3 9 years, 3 months ago

Windlass, If you infact witnessed this brutality you should have reported it and one act of brutality doesn't make another ok.. You are so far out of line here it isn't even funny!!!

BigDog 9 years, 3 months ago


If you did indeed witness such a thing and didn't report it then you are definitely ethically challenged.

If you didn't ...... you are an ###hole for saying such a thing.

oliveoyl 9 years, 3 months ago

"I don't understand why “protection” is needed for folks who cover up violent acts within their own work environments, committed by their own co-workers."

This logic is crazy and idiotic. A couple of bad seeds doesn't speak for the masses. So I guess you believe that Mrs. Zenner abused the client that brutally killed her? She must've deserved it then huh. She didn't deserve any safety training or "protection", as you put it, because of one unfortunate incident that you witnessed. You are an idiot and a fool. How are you able to conclude that all social workers commit violent crimes against their clients over one incident? I'm sure there are other similar incidents out there but that is more the reason why every social worker needs adequate training on how to effectively deal with conflict, whether its protecting themselves, protecting their client from themselves or to difuse a high tension situation. Blame the agency for the abuse, not all social workers. Workers who commit crimes against their clients are obviously not properly supervised (or work for a corrupt agency) and should be fired at first sign of abuse.

Kyle Reed 9 years, 3 months ago

One word Windlass...issues. You may want to seek some professional help yourself.

Kyle Reed 9 years, 3 months ago

Ok, I give up. What does "six for you" mean?

oliveoyl 9 years, 3 months ago

Windlass, No one is saying that what these workers did was ethically and morally right. It is despicable and they should be held accountable for their ineptness. From your first few posts you made a black/white statement regarding training and how workers don't deserve it and lumped all social workers into this category. I am merely pointing out that a couple of bad seeds don't speak for the field. There are bad seeds in every field, like our last president, but I would never assume that every president is incompetent b/c we have had a few bad ones. Not every social worker works in a mental institution or a mental health facility and most don't commit violent acts towards their patients.
70 acts of violence towards patients! That is high, I'll give you that. Out of curiosity, have you spoken up about it? Raised awareness? You wouldn't want to be ignoramus and sit on your candy as* would you? That would be just as bad as not saying a damn thing. You really should have been there to appose the bill since you feel so strongly AND witnessed over 70 incidents.
BTW, if your are not interested in what I have to say, then why so many posts to defend yourself?

Polly_Gomer 9 years, 3 months ago

Windlass, you are a liar. Put up or STFU. Do something or go away.

HermioneElliott 9 years, 3 months ago

No one believes the mentally ill because they are "mentally ill." We read in the paper all the time about those in charge of those with mental or emotionally difficulties taking advantage of them in all sorts of ways. Did no one have a clue that this man might be violent? I mean, a knife and a chainsaw? Did he have them ready when she arrived, or did she say or do something that sent him over the edge?

djeyler 9 years, 3 months ago

Not my job as a tax payer to provide you with common since. Besides where in the heck is the "State" suppose to get the money to train a social worker. I mean come on. I completely agree with the congressman/senator who thinks this should be taught in school. What part of don't go into a house and then into the bedroom where you can be trapped and killed.

somebodynew 9 years, 3 months ago

OK - completely ignoring windless who obviously will listen to noone but her/him self and didn't report stuff that should have. And, the only way I know someone goes to jail for not changing their address is if they are a registered offender, otherwise not a criminal offense.

The way I read this article is that he wants the State to set standards. They are NOT responsible for the training, that would be to the agency (which by the way some already do). It would just be a State requirement, the agency provides it.

It is similar to the police - all police officers MUST receive a certain number of hours to maintain their certification. It is up to the agency to make sure to provide that many number of hours. It is then the officer's responsibilty to attend those hours to keep their certification.

And for those of you commenting about social workers going into someone's house. Well you can thank the Kansas Governer from several years ago (can't remember who for sure) that closed all the facilities for a "community based" effort, but then failed to transfer any money to those programs. This is normal business on a day to day basis and there is nothing the workers can do about it, except quit.

And if Mrs. Landwehr (sp??) is who I think, I am surprized she has this attitude, given her husband's line of work (or former line of work). But, maybe they don't discuss each others work.

Stephanie Anderson 9 years, 3 months ago

This is NOT the State's responsibility. The safety of the social worker falls on the agency that employs that worker. Does the social worker at the nursing home need safety training? How about the janitor at the nursing home as well? There are MANY areas of employment available to social workers. Not all of them work at mental health centers. I understand that he wants to honor his wife and hope that something can come out of an awful situation, but I don't agree with legislating this.

somebodynew 9 years, 3 months ago

@agl - I agree the training falls on the agency, BUT if there is not a State standard, agencies will simply not do it. I have no problem requiring the State to have a standard, I do agree it is NOT their responsibility to provide that training, just make sure it is done.

kubsw 9 years, 3 months ago

Well, maybe those of you who jump to conclusions should read the bill. The responsibility falls on the social worker as 6 of their required 40 CEU'S. The state is not held to train them. And yes, if we are provided the information we will make different choices. That is the purpose of the bill. To provide self-awareness training to social workers so they know how and when to get out. Social workers support this and they are the ones who are going to be paying for the training so what is the problem???

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