Manitoba·School Violence

'Deeply concerning' findings of violence in schools prompt calls for action from centre for child protection

"Deeply concerning" findings from a CBC News survey of student-on-student violence has the Canadian Centre for Child Protection calling for more training in schools to curb the problem.

CBC interviews with more than 4,000 students nationwide sheds light on violence, policy gaps in schools

A CBC News survey that asked more than 4,000 young Canadians to describe their experiences with violence on school grounds found the Prairies had some of the highest rates for sexually related incidents. (Warren Kay/CBC)

"Deeply concerning" findings from a CBC News survey of student-on-student violence have the Canadian Centre for Child Protection calling for more training in schools to curb the problem.

CBC News published a series of stories nationwide this week shedding light on violence in schools and how schools approach it.

Thousands of students were interviewed as part of the online survey, which found 40 per cent of boys said they had been physically assaulted.

The highest reported rate of sexual violence between students was on the Prairies. 

The education director for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection says the reports reveal more needs to be done in schools to ensure students are safe.

"Institutions have to have modernized practices for how they're addressing potentially sexual misconduct or sexual victimization," said Noni Classen.

"I think what this underscores is that we don't."

Fifteen per cent of girls who participated in the survey said they were sexually assaulted by a peer in school. Many said they didn't report the incidents out of fear of repudiation or bullying.

"That, I think, really speaks volumes to how we really don't have the proper systems in place to be responding to kids who are having these kinds of experiences in school," Classen said.

The child protection centre has actively been researching prevention and intervention strategies for 15 years to address sexual victimization of youth and kids.

One program developed by the organization, Kids in the Know, was devised in Manitoba and caters to students from kindergarten to Grade 12. It aims to help teachers help students understand boundaries, relationships, how technology fits into sexual victimization and where to turn for help, the centre said.

The arc of the program begins when students start school and evolves in nature as they get into high school, the centre says, when students are taught about consent.

"A lot of what's going on now, especially around the youth activity, is they're relying on pornography as their way of learning about relationships," Classen said.

"This is actually incredibly corrosive and damaging and dangerous — what they're acting out in dating scenarios and what's been normalized. So we have to give them a standard of measure to compare that to, and really get into what is a healthy sexual relationship."

Kids in the Know is available to teachers across Manitoba. Though the centre says some schools mandate it, there remain "significant gaps" in how consistently it is used from school to school.

Another program, called Commit to Kids, was designed to help organizations prevent sexual abuse and help school staff respond appropriately to students who need help.

That program is already being used in schools Canada-wide on the heels of rising reports of sexual violence by staff and students in schools, the centre said.

"Schools have a unique role as they have both a responsibility to create safe environments and an opportunity to have these conversations, which students may not be having anywhere else," said Classen.

With files from Bryce Hoye