70% of Ontario elementary educators surveyed have seen or experienced classroom violence: union

Months after Global News reported on classroom violence across Ontario, results of a new survey released by the union representing the province’s elementary educators say 70 per cent of union members who responded have seen or experienced violent incidents.

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“It has confirmed everything that we and numerous education partners have been saying for over a year, that there is a problem here and it’s getting worse,” Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), told Global News Tuesday.

“It should be an issue for everyone in this province. We’re talking about our children here, we’re talking about workplace safety, and we need to – all of us – be working together to push this (provincial) government to act.”

READ MORE: Violence in Durham Region classrooms has seen teachers bitten, punched and kicked, union says

The union also said 79 per cent of members surveyed reported incidents of violence increasing while 75 per cent said the incidents were getting more severe.

“About 60 per cent of our members have reported when they’ve been involved in a violent incident but what they’ve also reported is at least 50 per cent of the time, there has been no significant short- or long-term follow-up by school administrators or school boards,” Hammond said.

The survey, which was carried out by Strategic Communications Inc., was sent to members by email and respondents were asked to report on their experiences during the 2016-2017 school year.

In 2017, Global News heard from several educators and parents across Ontario about their concerns over integrated classrooms and supports being offered to children with disabilities.

Violence in the classroom: Ontario mother of student with special needs speaks out

Julie Austin said in October that she was attacked by a 10-year-old student with special needs, an attack she said lasted 20 minutes.

“I ended up taking a chair over the head and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and now I’m suffering from post-concussion syndrome,” Austin told Global News Tuesday.

“I’m a sitting duck. My hands are tied. I can’t touch him. I can’t leave him. So I had to take what was coming.”

READ MORE: Durham teachers union launches awareness campaign amid violence in classrooms

Austin said she is now unable to work and had her disability payments cut off, and she is now taking legal action against her insurance provider.

“My life is completely different. I’m no longer living in my home because I had to rent it out because I have no income. I can’t pay the bills,” she said.

READ MORE: More training, reporting and inspections part of Ontario plan to address classroom violence

Indira Naidoo-Harris, who was sworn in as Ontario’s education minister during a cabinet shuffle last week, said in a written statement to Global News that school violence is “unacceptable” and acknowledged ETFO’s report.

“Our schools must be safe, inclusive and welcoming places – not only for students and their families, but for teachers and staff,” she wrote.

“Our government is working tirelessly with our partners to strengthen and create a culture of health and safety in our schools.”

READ MORE: Ontario education minister responds after Durham teacher speaks out about classroom violence

Naidoo-Harris said her ministry is spending $220,000,000 in 2018 to help hire more than 2,400 teachers and educational assistants.

She also said all school boards are required to have policies “to prevent and respond to incidents of violence in schools,” adding Ministry of Labour enforcement teams will be visiting all school boards to “ensure compliance” with provincial health and safety laws.

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