Violence study points to lack of front-line supports for students as a major cause of escalating violence against educators
For Immediate Release – September 10, 2019
Toronto, ON – A new study on violence in Ontario public elementary schools confirms that violence against educators is taking a huge toll and is in part due to a lack of investment in front-line supports for vulnerable students.
“There’s one major reason why educators have experienced a seven-fold increase in violence over the past 12 years and that’s the lack of front-line supports and resources for vulnerable students, especially those with special needs and mental health challenges,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “That’s leading to higher rates of sick leave and WSIB claims among educators for physical and/or psychological injuries that they suffer due to violence.”
“The Ford Conservative government’s cuts to public education will only make matters worse. Without additional and dedicated resources for students with behavioural challenges based on actual need, violent incidents will continue to threaten the safety of educators, compromising teacher working conditions and student learning conditions. Ontario’s faulty education funding formula must be fixed.”
The University of Ottawa study, entitled Facing the Facts: The Escalating Crisis of Violence against Elementary School Educators in Ontario, finds that there are ‘alarmingly high rates’ of violence, with 54 per cent of educators reporting one or more acts of physical violence during the 2017-18 year. Sixty per cent report one or more attempts to use physical force against them. The study can be viewed at http://educatorviolence.net. See below for a synopsis.
Teachers on the frontlines
Week two of the new school year and students across Ontario are settling into their classrooms. But what about their teachers? Are they settling in OK? Not entirely, according to new uOttawa-led research highlighting a seven-fold increase in the experience of violence against educators over the past 12 years.
The rate of harassment and violence experienced by educators is a mounting crisis, one that is not being adequately addressed claim the authors of “Facing the Facts: The Escalating Crisis of Violence Against Elementary School Educators in Ontario”. The report, led by Darcy A. Santor, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Ottawa, and Chris Bruckert a professor of criminology also at the University of Ottawa highlights a growing concern that has repercussions both inside and outside the classroom.
“Violence against educators is a significant problem that has wide-reaching impacts on the physical and mental health of educators,” explains Santor. “It affects their ability to do their jobs, as well as the learning environment of their students who are not receiving the attention they require.”
Over 1600 educators provided first-hand accounts and testimonials about their experiences with harassment and violence – including their worst experience of harassment and violence in the 2017-2018 school year.
Key findings include:
- Violence against educators is increasingly normalized in elementary schools.
- 54% of educators reported experiencing violence in the form of physical force (e.g., hitting, kicking, biting, hit by a thrown object) during the 2017-2018 school year; 60% reported an attempt to use physical force and 49% experienced a threat to use physical force.
- 72% of respondents reported experiencing explicit verbal insults, putdowns and/or obscene gestures from a student in the 2017-2018 school year;
- 41% experienced this sort of behaviour from a parent.
- Rates of harassment and violence from students were higher among educators identifying as racialized, disabled, women, or LGBTQ.
- The financial impact associated with harassment and violence is very conservatively estimated at 3 million dollars annually.
What’s the solution?
Authors highlight the fact that despite the existing range of training available, the solution lies elsewhere.
“If we offer existing training to educators, such as crisis intervention training, we not only risk further normalizing the violence but also we would not address the issue,” concludes Bruckert. “Educators should not be experiencing workplace violence at all. We need to instead invest in ways to ensure that violence does not occur in the first place.”
The report offers some suggestions, namely the need for:
- Increased resources to help the most vulnerable students get the support they need to flourish and learn, such as early diagnosis and interventions, additional educational supports, and smaller classes to facilitate the individualized attention mandated by the Education Act.
- Resources to support educators and address their mental and physical health needs in the context of the escalating harassment and violence they are experiencing.
- Additional training for administrators to ensure that they have the skills to adequately address harassment and violence in schools and provide meaningful support to educators who experience harassment, and/or violence.
- Ensuring that policies and protocols concerning harassment, and violence are understood and consistently applied including the implementation of student consequences that are appropriate and effective.
- Ongoing monitoring of workplace harassment and violence including the development of strategies to address the heightened vulnerability of designated groups (e.g., racialized, Indigenous, disabled, women, LGBTQ).
- The adoption of a population health approach that examines a broad range of factors and conditions that influence the frequency and nature of harassment, violence, and inappropriate behaviours (e.g., incivility in the classroom).
Hammond stated that, “Along with educators being often unsupported or blamed by the system for the violence they experience, many women educators are facing gendered violence in terms of language used, microaggressions and sexual harassment. Rates of harassment and violence from students are statistically higher among educators who identify as racialized, disabled and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ).”
“The report is clear. Vulnerable students need more front-line supports, earlier diagnosis and interventions, and smaller classes to get the individualized attention that they need,” added Hammond.
Another article from the Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/education/article-as-teachers-report-more-violent-incidents-in-schools-boards-struggle/