Teachers are being forced to wear protective clothing made from Kevlar to protect them from violent situations in their classrooms, according to the president of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association.
Guy Arseneault said in an interview with Information Morning Moncton that the inconsistent application of the province's inclusion policy is making for unsafe classrooms.
Arseneault said the "frequency and severity" of violence that is happening in schools is unacceptable.
'[S]ome teachers have to wear Kevlar because of the biting that is going on with students and some of the kicking and punching.' - Guy Arseneault, NBTA
The union president said he was contacted by a teacher on Wednesday night who said she had been hit by two different students prior to 9:30 a.m. and then later in the same day she had been kicked and punched at least once.
He said teachers are now forced to protect themselves from the violence each day.
"We have some teachers who have to wear protective clothing in the classrooms. We feel that students are entitled and have a right to be in the classrooms but it should not be in the detriment of others," Arseneault said.
"We are told that some teachers have to wear Kevlar because of the biting that is going on with students and some of the kicking and punching and things of that nature."
Kevlar is a material that often used in various types of body armour, such as bulletproof vests.
Larry Jamieson, a spokesperson for the teachers' union, said in a statement that privacy rules mean he cannot give out more details about how many teachers are wearing Kevlar in the classrooms or who pays for that clothing.
"We have also been made aware of teachers being told that in certain situations, they would have to wear protective equipment, such as Kevlar, when working with a student or students," he wrote.
Jamieson also said privacy rules mean the union cannot offer more details about incidents or rates of violence. The union also does not have data to show the increase in violence in the classrooms, but they are getting anecdotal information from teachers.
Jamieson said incidents of violence are recorded by school administrators and reported to district offices. He said the teachers' union does not have access to that information.
The teachers' union wants the Department of Education to conduct a review of the inclusion policy and how it is applied across New Brunswick. The basis of the policy that was adopted in 1986 and updated in 2013 is that all students are capable of learning and are entitled to be educated in a classroom of age-appropriate peers regardless of any mental or physical disabilities.
Arseneault said teachers are not opposed to inclusion being maintained.
"We support it completely but we feel the policy has to be improved upon," he said.
"What we are saying is let's make it happen and making it happen means by making sure that the right supports are in place."
Education Minister Serge Rousselle said in an email statement the government is committed to ensuring that each student receives an education "that meets his or her needs."
"We have received the NBTA's letter regarding inclusive education and a response to the union will be provided in the near future," Rousselle said.
The provincial government hired Wayne MacKay, a law professor to conduct a thorough report into inclusion in 2006.
MacKay's 350-page report indicated the provincial government still had a long way to go in terms of implementing the inclusion program. He said more money and attention had to be paid to the program.