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Quebec students to undergo mandatory anti-violence training

Click to play video: 'Quebec launches action plan to counter school violence'
Quebec launches action plan to counter school violence
WATCH: Quebec's education minister is hoping to reduce the number of violent incidents in Quebec schools. Bernard Drainville released a long-awaited 11-step action plan to tackle the issue. The announcement comes after a series of violent incidents in and around the province's schools, including a stabbing in Laval earlier this week. Global's Franca Mignacca reports – Oct 27, 2023

Quebec students will soon have to undergo seven to nine hours of mandatory anti-violence training every year, starting as early as pre-K, following a series of violent incidents in the province’s schools.

The measure is one of 11 outlined in Education Minister Bernard Drainville’s anti-violence action plan to be rolled out gradually by 2025.

The training will be incorporated into the school curriculum, and may be included in the province’s new ‘citizenship and culture’ course, Drainville explained. School teachers and support staff will also receive specialized training.

“In the vast majority of our schools, we have to make sure that these environments remain safe,” he told reporters Friday.

Drainville says he’s visited some 54 schools over the last year and has heard, repeatedly, that violence is becoming more of an issue — both physical violence and psychological violence.

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But, he says, it’s difficult to say to what degree the number of violent incidents has increased as the province has no standardized way of collecting data.

Last year, he explained, the ministry was only able to record the numbers for 45 of the province’s 72 school board and school service centres, because the rest of the data it had received from the schools was incomplete.

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That’s why the province will soon oblige school staff to fill out a standardized questionnaire on violence annually, to keep closer tabs on the issue. Schools will also be required to have a detailed emergency protocol to be used in cases of mass violence.

Since 2012, Quebec schools have been required to each have an anti-violence plan, but Drainville says there has been little follow-up or updates to those plans, and in many cases, it appears they’ve been “collecting dust.”

That’s why his government will also publish a standardized anti-violence plan that can be used as a template across the network, but that can be tweaked to suit the schools’ individual needs.

But in order to prevent violence in schools, Drainville says parents will also have to play their part.

“We ask more and more of our schools,” said Drainville. “Education doesn’t begin at school. Education begins at home, begins with the family.”

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Quebec Liberal Party Education Critic Marwah Rizqy has been sounding the alarm on school violence for months, following a number of reports of violent incidents in and around Quebec schools, as well as the stabbing death of a John Rennie High School student last year.

“I think what was most shocking for me was the number of knives, but even sometimes guns, that were actually seized by the police at school,” said Rizqy. “This is something that we need to address right now and I felt that was an emergency.

According to Drainville’s office, police in the province have seized about 500 weapons in Quebec schools since 2018.

Rizqy says the education minister’s announcement Friday is a good start, but she says, if the province really wants to deal with the rise in violent cases, it will have to get more support staff in schools.

“I learned from the Ordre des orthophonistes et audiologistes du Québec that 80 per cent of the time that a child has aggressivity, he has actually a language problem and we are lacking right now in school language therapists,” Rizqy explained.

“And for our students, if they need help from a psychologist, they’ve been also waiting.”

Rizqy says the best way to attract and retain support workers would be for the province to improve their working conditions and salary offers.

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Teachers’ unions agree.

“There are already action plans against violence and bullying in schools, but they often become administrative tools,” Éric Pronovost, president of Quebec’s support staff union, added in a release.

“We have to put permanent watchdog committees in place with all school officials.”

Drainville says he plans on meeting with school officials and opposition parties to fine-tune his plan.

 

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