Teachers on the frontlines

Posted on Monday, September 9, 2019

Young students asking questions in class.

New report highlights drastic rise in violence against educators.

Week two of the new school year and students across Ontario are settling into their classrooms. But what about their teachers? Are they settling in OK? Not entirely, according to new uOttawa-led research highlighting a seven-fold increase in the experience of violence against educators over the past 12 years.

The rate of harassment and violence experienced by educators is a mounting crisis, one that is not being adequately addressed claim the authors of “Facing the Facts: The Escalating Crisis of Violence Against Elementary School Educators in Ontario”.  The report, led by Darcy A. Santor, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Ottawa, and Chris Bruckert a professor of criminology also at the University of Ottawa highlights a growing concern that has repercussions both inside and outside the classroom. 

“Violence against educators is a significant problem that has wide-reaching impacts on the physical and mental health of educators,” explains Santor. “It affects their ability to do their jobs, as well as the learning environment of their students who are not receiving the attention they require.”

Over 1600 educators provided first-hand accounts and testimonials about their experiences with harassment and violence – including their worst experience of harassment and violence in the 2017-2018 school year.

Key findings include:

  • Violence against educators is increasingly normalized in elementary schools.
  • 54% of educators reported experiencing violence in the form of physical force (e.g., hitting, kicking, biting, hit by a thrown object) during the 2017-2018 school year; 60% reported an attempt to use physical force and 49% experienced a threat to use physical force.
  • 72% of respondents reported experiencing explicit verbal insults, putdowns and/or obscene gestures from a student in the 2017-2018 school year;
  • 41% experienced this sort of behaviour from a parent.
  • Rates of harassment and violence from students were higher among educators identifying as racialized, disabled, women, or LGBTQ.
  • The financial impact associated with harassment and violence is very conservatively estimated at 3 million dollars annually.

What’s the solution?

Authors highlight the fact that despite the existing range of training available, the solution lies elsewhere.

“If we offer existing training to educators, such as crisis intervention training, we not only risk further normalizing the violence but also we would not address the issue,” concludes Bruckert. “Educators should not be experiencing workplace violence at all. We need to instead invest in ways to ensure that violence does not occur in the first place.”

The report offers some suggestions, namely the need for:

  • Increased resources to help the most vulnerable students get the support they need to flourish and learn, such as early diagnosis and interventions, additional educational supports, and smaller classes to facilitate the individualized attention mandated by the Education Act.
  • Resources to support educators and address their mental and physical health needs in the context of the escalating harassment and violence they are experiencing.
  • Additional training for administrators to ensure that they have the skills to adequately address harassment and violence in schools and provide meaningful support to educators who experience harassment, and/or violence.
  • Ensuring that policies and protocols concerning harassment, and violence are understood and consistently applied including the implementation of student consequences that are appropriate and effective.
  • Ongoing monitoring of workplace harassment and violence including the development of strategies to address the heightened vulnerability of designated groups (e.g., racialized, Indigenous, disabled, women, LGBTQ).
  • The adoption of a population health approach that examines a broad range of factors and conditions that influence the frequency and nature of harassment, violence, and inappropriate behaviours (e.g., incivility in the classroom).

The full report is available here.


For media inquiries:
Isabelle Mailloux Pulkinghorn

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