Canadian Occupational Safety

March/April 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 35

F E A T U R E 28 harassment. The majority of workers taking the leave in Peel region are in kindergarten or primary classrooms and split grades. The teachers going on leave are quite young — 29 per cent are between the ages of 35 and 39, while 15 per cent are between the ages of 30 and 34. Morse is also seeing teachers displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder. Reporting lacking Just 53 per cent of all violent incidents are reported by Ontario educators, according to the University of Ottawa report. More than one in five respondents said that talking to their administrator was not helpful. The educators described a range of work-related reprisals for reporting violence or harassment, including being given undesirable teaching assignments, the denial of professional development opportunities, having working conditions eroded and being pushed or transferred out of the school, the study found. "The mindset has to change," says Bruckert. "Educators have to be encouraged to fill out the reports by their administrators, not just by their union and occupational health and safety, but by their bosses and then be supported when they do — not face reprisals, not be blamed, not be questioned." At the Peel region, there is a process in place for reporting violence that is inflicted by students, but it needs to meet such stringent criteria — seven specific items — that many instances just don't make the cut. "You may be getting bitten every day, but that's not seen as violence that needs to be reported," says Bannister-Clarke. "[We] need to broaden that scope and understand that any violence is violence… There needs to be mechanisms to report it as long as you feel you are getting injured, and administrators need to be able to respond." Addressing the problem All sources interviewed for this article pointed first and foremost to the need for more student supports and additional resources to reduce violence in the classroom. They said the needs of students must be identified earlier, special rooms must be available for students to decompress and the number of teaching assistants, mental health specialists, guidance councillors and social workers must increase. Participants in the University of Ottawa study also noted the need for clear policies and consistently applied consequences for violent, harassing and inappropriate behaviour. "If administrators were supported in their role by their boards as someone who can deliver consequences to students who are acting disrespectfully, that would change things a lot," Morse says. Another recommendation in the study was appropriate professional development for educators. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of educators said they would welcome social-emotional learning programs and 55 per cent said they would welcome non-physical intervention programs. Only 36 per cent of educators said they were confident in their ability to deal with an incident of physical violence. Many teachers across Canada already receive non-violent crisis invention training. But not everyone is convinced that more training is necessary. Morse says it's a "band-aid solution" and Bruckert says it puts the blame on educators, making it seem like these issues would not be happening if they only had more training. "It doesn't matter how well trained you are. If you have seven individual education plans and two high-needs kids and you have 24 kids in your class and three of them are reading below grade level and you have to prepare for standardized testing, it doesn't matter "You may be getting bitten every day, but that's not seen as violence that needs to be reported. [We] need to broaden that scope and understand that any violence is violence." Gail Bannister-Clarke, Peel Elementary Teachers' Local BY THE NUMBERS 11,000 Number of violent incidents against teachers per year in Nova Scotia. That works out to more than one incident per year per teacher. 2,471 Number of cases of violence reported in 2016-17 by educational assistants in New Brunswick 70% Percentage of elementary teachers in Ontario who say they have personally experienced violence or have witnessed violence in schools 311 Number of reported incidents of student violence against Edmonton teachers in the 2016-17 school year 90% Percentage of teachers in British Columbia who report having been the target of violence or bullying. Incidents of violence against educators is a problem all across Canada Sources: Nova Scotia Teachers Union, CUPE 2745, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Global News, BC Teachers' Federation

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian Occupational Safety - March/April 2020