School staff at risk from ris­ing vi­o­lence

RE: Vi­o­lence and teach­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

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

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