Elementary teachers union gathering information on school violence

By CambridgeToday Staff

A survey on workplace violence will be sent out by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to all members as the union continues to address a rise in aggressive behaviours in schools.

It’s an issue that's also being looked into locally within the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Board of trustees chair Joanne Weston put forth a motion at a Jan. 23 meeting asking staff to report back on how the board supports teachers who have shared stories of harassment on social media and other struggles they've faced in and out of the classroom.

“I’m hearing from staff, and much like other employers, that we could be doing a better job to support staff well-being at a time when many people are stressed,” Weston said at the meeting.

“I brought this motion forward because I would like to know how staff well-being, one of our strategic directions, is being supported across the system. I hope that by requesting a report that highlights what we're doing and what we would need to do to create a staff well-being strategy, we can move forward with more support.”

The online survey being put on by the ETFO will run from Feb. 8 to March 8 with focus groups being held at the end of March.

“Violence against ETFO members remains a concerning, pervasive and growing issue,” Karen Brown, president of the ETFO said.

“Many school spaces are not safe, especially for those working on the front lines with students whose needs are not being met. We hope the data collected will finally convince the Ford government to take action to address the unacceptable and troubling rise of violence in schools.”

A similar survey was done by the ETFO in 2017 and showed that violence was a significant and growing problem in elementary schools.

The ETFO says that despite knowing the data that came out of the survey, the provincial government has failed to act accordingly to make school environments “physically and psychologically safe.”

More supports for special education are needed as it has not kept up with the need of those students, Brown says.

“At its core, this is a human rights issue,” she said.

“Without adequate funding of dedicated resources and supports for students who need them, violent incidents will continue to threaten safety, and compromise learning and working conditions.”

The survey is being conducted by Strategic Communications Inc. and results are anticipated in the spring of 2023.

The results will be used to raise awareness, advocate for change and develop resources and programs aimed at empowering ETFO members.

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