OHS Canada Magazine

Workplace violence rampant in Ontario Catholic schools: survey


June 30, 2017
By Jeff Cottrill

Health & Safety Human Resources annex harassment Mental Health occupational health and safety ontario teacher toronto workplace violence

Nearly nine in ten teachers have experienced or seen violence

TORONTO, Ont. — Eighty-nine per cent of teachers in Ontario’s Catholic schools have either experienced or witnessed some form of violence at work, according to a new report from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).

Published online on June 27, Workplace Violence and Harassment against Teachers contained the results of a comprehensive member survey on workplace violence. The seven-page report revealed that about three-fifths of the province’s Catholic teachers had experienced violence and about 70 per cent had witnessed it, while 94 per cent of violent acts had been perpetrated by students. Fifteen per cent of violent incidents involved weapons, more than three-quarters of which were classroom objects.

“The stories of violence against teachers that have been emerging over the past few months are heartbreaking, but until now, there has been a lack of hard data to illustrate the scope and scale of the problem,” OECTA president Ann Hawkins said in a press statement about the survey. “Although our Association has been raising this issue with the government and school boards for years, Catholic teachers feel that violence is still not being taken seriously by school administrators and that the government’s existing policies and procedures are insufficient.

“The results of this survey clearly show that violence in the classroom is a real and growing crisis.”

Fifty-eight per cent of survey respondents said that they had experienced “significant psychological stress” resulting from workplace violence, while 76 per cent said that violent incidents had made their jobs more difficult. More than one-quarter had to take time off work due to mental-health effects from violence, the report added.

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OECTA included firsthand quotations from survey respondents in the report as well. “I know of a principal and teachers who are required to wear Kevlar due to student violence in their elementary schools,” one teacher said. Others spoke of panic attacks, threats, frisking of students and a teachers’ workshop on how to deal with a stabbing attack.

Another problem the survey pointed out was that administration had discouraged some teachers from reporting violent incidents. Nearly one-quarter of respondents stated that they had been encouraged or pressured not to fill out a reporting form; roughly the same amount had been discouraged from contacting the police. More than two-thirds believed that administration did not take violence seriously.

“We appreciate the recent efforts from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour. But given this data, there can be no doubt about the magnitude of the problem or the need for immediate, meaningful action,” said Hawkins.

Workplace Violence and Harassment against Teachers is available online at http://www.catholicteachers.ca/OECTA/media/pdfs/News/2017/OECTA%20Survey%20on%20Violence%20in%20Schools/na_schoolViolence_v3_june27_2017_reduced.pdf.

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