Violence in classrooms under-reported, Winnipeg teachers say

The Winnipeg Teachers' Association president says violent incidents in classrooms are being under-reported and the organization has come up with a plan to change that.

Winnipeg Teachers' Association, school division hope to encourage teachers to report more incidents

Winnipeg School Division trustee Sherri Rollins hopes a partnership with the Winnipeg Teachers' Association will encourage teachers to report violence in classrooms. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)

The Winnipeg Teachers' Association president says violent incidents in classrooms are being under-reported and the organization has come up with a plan to change that.

Winnipeg School Division trustee Sherri Rollins, working with the teachers' association, has submitted a motion to the school board outlining a four-point plan to encourage teachers to report violent incidents on the job in an effort to keep teachers and students safer. 

"We know from 2016-17 data … 35 incidents of violence [were] reported [by WTA members] in that school year," said Kristin Insull, president of the teachers association.

"So 35 incidents across a division of 70 schools seems like a very small number, And when we go into schools … we hear anecdotally there are a lot more incidents happening at schools."

While the association and the school division have safety protocols and reporting procedures in place, sometimes teachers aren't aware of what types of incidents should be reported, said Rollins, who is trustee for WSD Ward 1.

"When a child accidentally throws something because of developmental reasons or what have you, and there's a near miss and it hits the teacher, that's an incident," said Rollins. "You were hit at work and you shouldn't be hit at work.

"It might be the case that you've got a very young kindergartener that's biting still, but you don't get bit at work. It might be the case that you're working with children with inclusion support needs, but that's still an incident at work.

"So training is really vital."

The teachers' association believes violent incidents in schools, from being bit by a young child to being slapped, kicked, punched or shoved into lockers by older students, are on the rise, said Insull.

However, when teachers don't report the incidents, they have no hard data to use to help intervene or make plans for students who may need intervention.

"My fear as a trustee is that if the teachers are under-reporting, then we're getting under-reported students," said Rollins. "And so you want to make sure that you are creating a healthy reporting environment so that you can effectively diagnose and you can effectively eradicate that."

Rollins' motion is a proposed plan that includes:

  • New guidelines for teachers that outline responsibilities and promote awareness of what needs to be reported.
  • More training on workplace health and safety for teachers.
  • Launching an awareness campaign on violent incidents.
  • Doing an impact study on the effects of the training.

The motion will be presented at the school division's board meeting Monday night, but it will not be discussed until the following regular meeting on March 5, said Insull.

With files from Meghan Ketcheson