OHS Canada Magazine

Most Ontario elementary teachers experienced or witnessed violence: survey

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May 15, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety ETFO Labour Relations schools teachers unions workplace violence


More than three-quarters of elementary school teachers in Ontario have either witnessed violence against a staff member or experienced it themselves, according to a survey conducted by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

President Karen Brown pinned the blame on a lack of investment by the province in public education, saying that “learning is being disrupted and violence is being normalized.”

“The system is suffering from chronic underfunding, under-resourcing, and understaffing, creating environments where student needs are going unmet,” said Brown. “The province must provide adequate funding so learning and working environments are physically and psychologically safe for students, teachers, and education workers.”

Additional results from the survey

The survey, conducted in February and March this year, revealed:

  • Educators working with younger students are more likely to experience violence.
  • Eighty-six per cent of ETFO members who work in special education have personally experienced violence or witnessed it against another staff person.
  • Four out of five members state there are more incidents of violence in schools now than when they started working in the Ontario public elementary school system.
  • Two-thirds of members say the severity of violent incidents has increased and 72 per cent say the number of incidents has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More than 80 per cent agree that violence in schools is making working with students more difficult and that it interferes with classroom management.
  • Front-line supports are often not available to educators and students. A majority report that educational assistants (61 per cent), social workers (56 per cent), and child and youth workers (53 per cent) were available only some of the time, rarely or never when needed this school year.
  • Administrators know that violence is a problem, but do not always act on reports of violence.
  • Forty-two per cent of members have suffered a physical injury, illness or psychological injury/illness as a result of workplace violence against them this school year.
  • Approximately 30 per cent of ETFO members’ injuries warranted a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claim although those claims weren’t always submitted.

Struggling students

Students who are struggling, and especially students with special education needs, have been chronically under-served by the government, according to EFTO.


There is a critical need for more educational assistants, special education teachers, psychologists, behavioural therapists, school support counsellors, child and youth workers and speech-language pathologists to meet the promise of an inclusive education system, it said.

“The Ford government seems to consider injuries to teachers and education workers as collateral damage in their quest to starve the public education system of funding,” said Brown.

ETFO represents approximately 83,000 members, including public elementary teachers, occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators, education support personnel, and professional support personnel.


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