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Teachers in Surrey, B.C., have filed 58 workplace complaints due to classroom violence

Click to play video: 'Surrey Teachers’ Association ringing alarm on classroom safety'
Surrey Teachers’ Association ringing alarm on classroom safety
The Surrey Teachers Association is ringing the alarm on classroom safety just two months into the school year. Dozens of violent incidents have been reported to WorkSafe BC from teachers hurt in the classroom. Richard Zussman has more. – Nov 1, 2022

Teachers in Surrey, B.C., have filed 58 complaints of workplace violence to WorkSafeBC since the start of the school year, with the teachers association saying the surge is due to a lack of specialist teachers.

Surrey Teachers Association president Jatinder Bir said the provincial government is not properly staffing or supporting education assistants, school counsellors and other support staff.

As a result, students with complex needs aren’t getting the attention and care they need in the classroom.

“It could be throwing items, could be bites, kicks.” Bir said in an interview. “The working conditions don’t work right now for our kids in the system.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. teachers reach tentative contract deal'
B.C. teachers reach tentative contract deal
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The association has sent a letter to the province, describing an increase in cases where instruction had to be paused and classrooms cleared due to disruptive behaviour.

“When our most vulnerable learners have their social and emotional needs met, they can thrive in the classroom, however, when specialist teachers are absent and when programs and services cannot be maintained, then there are more opportunities for students to become dysregulated,” the letter reads.

“A related consequence of not having teacher absences covered by replacement teachers is that students are falling further behind in numeracy and literacy due to prolonged absence or redirection of specialists in schools.”

In some cases, specialist teachers were missing for as much as 20 days from the classroom before a replacement was found.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Teachers’ Association president speaks about staffing crisis'
Surrey Teachers’ Association president speaks about staffing crisis
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Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said the province is optimistic about the tentative agreement reached with the BC Teachers Federation, and takes the issue of school safety seriously.

But she would not make any commitments to ensure specialist teachers are replaced in the classroom when someone is sick or absent.

“Safety of staff and students is a top priority, we are in the process of the ratification of a tentative agreement,” Whiteside said.

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