Addressing violence in schools
Our elementary schools have a problem with violence. It’s a problem in Ontario, a problem in our region and a problem in our local schools. And while it doesn’t affect all classrooms, all students or all educators, it warrants action.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario has included violence in the classroom as one of the action items it wants to see the provincial government address during contract negotiations. This week, the union is commencing rotating strikes around the province because talks have stalled.
While we are not privy to the specifics of negotiations – and indeed both sides say that the other is being unreasonable – what is clear from the vantage point of Haliburton is that on the topic of violence in schools, something more needs to be done.
In November, the Echo reported on a study from the University of Ottawa that surveyed 1,688 elementary school education workers about their experience of violence in the workplace. It found that more than half of educators had experienced “one or more acts of violence during the 2017-2018 school year,” mostly perpetrated by students.
At Trillium Lakelands District School Board, there were “982 reports of staff injury from student aggression/violent incidents” in the 2018-2019 school year, the board’s spokeswoman said. “This includes when special education staff are intervening with students with special needs. And it also includes students who attempted but did not injure staff.”
While the board does provide training to EAs in how to handle these situations and has a behaviour intervention resource team available, more is needed so that everyone can have safe access to school.
Unlike in the past, it’s now expected that schools will provide support for children’s mental health needs and at TLDSB, the intensity of the need is growing.
What ETFO has asked in the past is for more support staff assigned to help those students who are acting aggressively – educational assistants, psychiatrists and psychologists – to ensure the proper resources are in place.
The union has made this request part of its ask at the bargaining table.
Negotiations, job action, strikes and political strife aside, this is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed.