The union that represents elementary school teachers says it's seen an uptick in daily incidents of violence and aggression in the classroom — and it plans to ask the education minister for more funding to keep students and teachers safe.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond said the province needs to address the issue immediately

"There is a critical lack of support for our students," he said at a press conference Tuesday. 

Hammond laid out four potential solutions, including more funding for special education programs, teachers and counsellors. He said he wouldn't, however, ask for a specific amount of money.

"I can tell you the funding formula that's in place now is not working as it should, and it should be fixed," he said instead.

Mitzie Hunter

Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says the government has already taken steps towards a provincewide well-being strategy. (CBC)

The union also plans to ask for more funding for mental health care, but Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said the government has already taken steps in launching a provincewide strategy.

"We know there are many good programs underway in our schools, and it's really building on that work and making sure we develop a well-being strategy," the minister said.

Hunter said the province has already created more support within schools, pointing to the School Mental Health Assist program, which refers students who need additional support to medical professionals.

A violent example

But the president of the ETFO's Kawartha Pine Ridge Teacher local said the supports aren't enough, noting a recent example of a boy whose violent outbursts kept forcing his teacher to evacuate the class.

Shirley Bell

Shirley Bell, president of the ETFO's Kawartha Pine Ridge Teacher Local, says students need special education support in order to succeed in the classroom. (Grant Linton/CBC)

"A kindergarten teacher had documented her concerns for two years," Shirley Bell said.

The school created a positive behaviour plan, which Bell said didn't work. The evacuations — and the student's behaviour — continued into Grade 1 and no more support appeared, she alleged.

The school eventually got a youth worker assigned to it. At the end of the boy's Grade 1 year, he was able to get one of two counselling assessment spots designated to the school annually, Bell said.

"We need to get the support and services in place," Bell said. "We have to work on making sure [students] have what they need in order to be successful in the classroom."

The union plans to meet with Hunter Wednesday.

With files from Chris Glover and Shanifa Nasser