Violence against Catholic school teachers frequent, says survey

Almost nine in 10 Catholic school teachers in Ontario say they've experienced or witnessed violence or harassment in schools, according to a survey by the Ontario English Teachers Association.

‘I don’t see enough focus on trying to fix it.’

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association will release a more in-depth analysis of the data in the fall. (CBC)

Sixty per cent of Catholic school teachers have experienced violence and harassment perpetrated by students, but the violent acts often go unreported, according to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association's survey findings.

The highlights from the survey of their members also reported that 94 per cent of violent acts are done by students.

Christine Stockie, the president of the Waterloo Region chapter of OECTA said she was not surprised about the numbers.

Highlights from the survey findings

  • 60 per cent of teachers personally experienced violence.
  • 70 per cent of teachers witnessed violence.
  • 26 per cent of teachers took time off due to school violence affecting their mental health.
  • 15 per cent of violent acts involve weapons, 76 per cent of which using classroom objects.
  • Almost 25 per cent say school administration discouraged them from filing reports or going to the police.

"At our local offices, we have conversations with teachers every day about violence in the schools," Stockie told CBC News.

She said there was a case where a secondary school teacher suffered a severe head injury after being tackled to the concrete ground by a student.

It was not reported to the police.

Reporting violence not encouraged

Stockie said teachers often shy away from reporting student violence to police, especially in cases where the student has complex special needs.

"The suggestion is that there's no intent, but it doesn't mean that the actions of the students don't equate to a hazard in the workplace," she said.

Administration might also discourage reporting to police or ignore reports that land on their desks.

"Some administrators don't even acknowledge the reports that come in," Stockie said.

Ann Hawkins, the president of the OECTA said that administrators can worry about tarnishing a school's reputation by reporting violence, even though it might help them get the resources the school needs.

"If their reporting is effective and they recognize that a school needs more support, a board can re-allocate their specialists to that particular school," Hawkins said.

Funding cuts to blame

Stockie said there are not enough resources for teachers and students, which are partly caused by cuts to special education programs, supply of social workers and other support staff.

The province announced in April that it will support the hiring of 875 teachers and 1,600 education workers, so students with special needs and students at risk can receive more support.

However, Stockie is hesitant to be positive about the outcome. She said right now there are only bandaid solutions.

"I don't see enough focus on trying to fix it. There's reactive things going on, I just don't see sufficient preventative strategies being implemented," Stockie said.

"Teachers aren't trained as social workers, they just aren't."