WRDSB teachers faced violence 1,300 times last year
The union representing public elementary school teachers in Waterloo Region says more resources are needed to halt a growing trend of classroom violence.
“We have teachers who are being bitten, who are being kicked, who are being punched on a daily basis,” Jeff Pelich, the vice-president of the local chapter of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said Monday.
“It’s pretty bad, and it’s escalating.”
Statistics provided by the Waterloo Region District School Board show that there were approximately 1,300 incidents involving elementary student-on-teacher violence in the last school year, up from about 900 the year before.
About two per cent of the 1,300 violent incidents resulted in one or more people needing medical attention beyond basic First Aid, and one per cent led to a leave of absence. The school board says no injuries were reported in 75 per cent of the incidents.
Pelich says violent outbursts in classrooms affect not only the students and teachers directly involved, but also other students who witness the violence firsthand.
He says the problem comes down to a lack of educational assistants and other supports for students with special needs.
“When there is a child who’s presenting in a violent manner, there’s just no one there to help,” he said.
“The child (often) has significant mental health needs that are outside the scope of what teachers are trained to deal with.”
The solution, ETFO says, is for the province to make more funding available.
An additional $6.3 million was provided to the WRDSB this year for special education needs. The Ministry of Education says the money is enough for “about 74 teachers and education workers.”
According to the school board, violent incidents appear to be happening this year at about the same rate they did in 2016-17.
WRDSB spokesperson Nick Manning says issues of violence aren’t limited to special education, and school board data shows that they occur most often after lengthy breaks in the school year, “before we’ve really had an opportunity to put programming in place to support students who need it.”
With reporting by Stu Gooden