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Violence in Sask. schools ‘taking its toll’ on support workers, CUPE reports

A new report released by CUPE says education support workers in Saskatchewan are dealing with an increase in violence. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

Education support workers in Saskatchewan are facing an increase in violence, according to a new report from the CUPE education workers steering committee.

Focused on the K-12 education sector, CUPE surveyed more than 1,000 workers on the issue.

The results indicated 70 per cent of workers said they experienced violence in their school over the past three years.

“Our members across Saskatchewan are facing unacceptable levels of violence in our schools. Budget cuts, increased classroom sizes, and more students with complex needs are leading to more violent incidents,” said Jackie Christianson, the committee’s chairperson and an education assistant at Regina Public School Board.

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“It’s clear the ongoing exposure to this violence is taking its toll on our workers, both physically and mentally.”

Forty per cent of the workers deal with violence on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, according to the report.

The types of violence workers are seeing include being yelled or sworn at, punched, spat on, bitten, groped and in some cases of feces and urine being thrown at them, the report stated.

One anonymous participant said, “[A] student punched me, threw objects at me attempted to throw a metal stool at me. Held keys and push pins between their fingers and held them up by my face and neck and threaten[ed] to stab me if I didn’t open a door for him to have access to another student.”

Another worker expressed concerns to administration, but received little support.

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“Many of the staff at our high school…have expressed their fears of an impending violent incident, where staff and students will potentially be harmed, but our administration continues to ignore our concerns and focus their attention elsewhere.”

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Christianson said it’s not about calling out the kids, but solve some of the underlying issues causing the violence.

“Although 80 per cent of the reported violence comes from students, we need to be very clear that we are not blaming them,” Christianson said.

“The purpose of this survey is to understand the root causes of the increased violence, offer preventative recommendations, and advocate for funding of appropriate supports and resources to ensure students and workers are safe in our schools. Only then can we focus on every student reaching their full potential.”

CUPE represents more than 7,000 education support workers in the province.

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