Nova Scotia schools recorded 4,730 acts of violence last year
Minister of Education Karen Casey says they're not 'truly violent acts'
Last year teachers, principals and school staff recorded 4,730 acts of physical violence in Nova Scotia schools, but Minister of Education Karen Casey is trying to downplay the figures.
“I think it's misleading to suggest that 4,700 of those are truly violent acts," she told CBC News.
She thinks there’s a distinction to be made between students with emotional or mental difficulties acting out and students who are intentionally violent or aggressive.
Reporting acts of violence became mandatory in 2012 with the passage of Bill 30, the Promotion of Respectful and Responsible Relationships Act.
The law stipulates that school boards have to “collect and monitor data on severely disruptive behaviour of students.”
Casey is worried the large number for the first full year of data will lead parents and students to believe Nova Scotia schools are not safe.
She doesn’t believe that to be true.
But the president of the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union, Shelley Morse, is less skeptical.
"I would not be shocked by that number being acts of violence that teachers are putting up with,” said Morse. “It happens every day and we continually get phone calls from teachers saying, 'Do I have to go to work in fear of my students?'"
Morse also bases her opinion on her personal experience as an elementary school teacher.
“I’ve been kicked, punched, bitten. Had chairs and desks and rocks thrown at me. I’ve had students spit on me. Have been verbally abusive to me. They have destroyed my office, because I’m a vice-principal as well," she said.
New code of conduct
The union leader and the minister do agree on what’s needed.
Casey has promised to work with the union, teachers and administrators on a new code of conduct.
She wants one that “clearly identifies acceptable behaviour, unacceptable behaviour. Clearly identifies consequences for behaviour that is intentional and behaviour that is through an exceptionality.”
Morse puts it another way.
"We need clear consequences and we need to be able to live by them. And we need the department and the boards to be taking a serious look at the violence and what teachers are dealing with on a daily basis," she said.