School staff at risk from rising violence
RE: Violence and teachers
I have been the OSSTF Teachers’ Unit president in Hamilton-Wentworth for a decade and, in that time, I have become increasingly concerned about the rising incidents of violence affecting secondary teachers in schools. The public would be shocked at the stories we could share regarding behaviours that would never be tolerated in another public venue or workplace.
On an almost weekly basis, our office assists teachers who have faced violence. This has included physical assaults, verbal abuse, sexual harassment and online bullying — all at the hands of students, and sometimes parents. Our teachers cannot speak publicly because they would be at risk of discipline by both the school board and the Ontario College of Teachers for publicly criticizing their employer.
Lack of training, inadequate numbers of support staff, and increasing behavioural and mental-health issues have all contributed to the rise of violent incidents in schools. The government’s focus on increasing graduation rates and pressure to reduce school suspension rates have translated into less support for teachers working with challenging students. There is an underlying attitude that if you work with children, violence is an acceptable part of the job. We are told repeatedly that there are “mitigating circumstances” which somehow justify violent behaviour, or that students are lashing out because they are “not engaged.”
All school staff and students are at risk, every day, as long as this issue is not being addressed.
Chantal Mancini, president, Teachers’/Occasional Teachers’ bargaining unit, OSSTF District 21, Hamilton-Wentworth