‘We’re at a crisis’: Upper Grand’s ETFO local president on violence in classrooms

Click to play video: '70% of Ontario elementary teachers personally faced violence in the classroom: union'
70% of Ontario elementary teachers personally faced violence in the classroom: union
Tue, Jan 23: A report from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) suggests staff are facing more incidents of violence on the job and it said the problem is getting worse. With a provincial election later this year, ETFO representatives say they want to see the Wynne government take swift action – Jan 23, 2018

The head of the labour union representing elementary teachers in the Upper Grand District School Board says the community is in crisis when it comes to violence in classrooms.

Earlier this week, a new survey was released by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and it showed 70 per cent of union members who responded have seen or experienced violent incidents.

Gundi Barbour, Upper Grand’s ETFO local president, says the school board that encompasses Wellington County, including Guelph, and Dufferin County, is no different.

“There isn’t a school in the two counties that I could say wasn’t experiencing some sort of violence at some point,” Barbour said in an interview this week.

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“I had a teacher who had been punched in the stomach by a student. The teacher is pregnant. So that’s a real concern.”

The Upper Grand District School Board said it has recently changed the way violent incidents are reported, moving to an online reporting system for employees.

“We made the change in the reporting process in order to get better data and to be more proactive with regards to workplace violence,” said Upper Grand spokesperson Heather Loney in an email.

Since Oct. 24, 2017, there have been 633 incidents reported: three of those resulted in lost time, eight in medical aid, 260 required first aid, and 362 resulted in no injury.

Barbour said those numbers are not surprising.

“There are a number problems that would be leading up to the violence,” she said. “We’re at a crisis.”

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

Barbour said the issue has worsened over the last decade and she believes the reason is partially due to cuts in funding.

“We used to have programs to help those students [but] many of those programs have been disbanded, both provincial programs and some of the programs that the board ran,” she said.

Barbour added there is a lack of support when it comes to special education programming. She said there are not enough youth workers in schools and there are no guidance counselors in any elementary schools.

Ontario’s education minister Indira Naidoo-Harris said her ministry is spending $220 million in 2018 to help hire more than 2,400 teachers and educational assistants.

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