'This is a crisis right now': Survey finds more violence in Ontario schools

Nine out of 10 English Catholic teachers in the province have experienced or witnessed violence or harassment in schools. That's according to a survey of 3,500 teachers from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA).

Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association to use data to demand Ministry of Education make changes

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association conducted a survey on school violence and found just one our of every 10 teachers who experience a violent incident filled out a report. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

Nine out of 10 English Catholic teachers in the province have experienced or witnessed violence or harassment in schools.

That's according to a recent survey of 3,500 teachers from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA).

According to the results, 85 per cent of teachers polled say classroom violence is increasing.

A violent incident is defined as a situation that occurs on school premises during school hours or during a school-run program or event.

OECTA was consistently hearing concerns from its unit presidents about the increase in incidents, and the escalation of the type of violence says president Anne Hawkins.

"There was no hard data on this."

She says the best way to show the ministry how serious this issue is and the negative impact it is having on teachers and students is using hard data.

"We knew it was a problem," says Hawkins, "But to actually see the raw statistics; some of the anecdotal stuff and some of the verbatim statements were really quite disturbing the number of people who had multiple instances of violence perpetrated against them or threats."

'More prevalent' says Sudbury teacher

The survey results reflect the experience of teachers in Sudbury, Ont., says Chantal Rancourt, union rep for Catholic elementary teachers in the city.

"[Violence in schools] is becoming more and more prevalent. It seems to be a bit more mainstream, and it's a much bigger problem than what seems to be the knowledge of the average person."

Rancourt adds that violence is not always effectively dealt with.

"I think there are some good policies. It's a matter of if the policies are all being followed carefully," says Rancourt.

She says school boards need to be more proactive to protect teachers and students.

They also need to further develop resources to address violent incidents says Dan Charbonneau, the union representative for Catholic secondary school teachers in Sudbury.

"I think more work needs to be done in terms of providing professional resources, in terms of identifying behaviour, escalating behaviour, and in terms of how to deal with it," says Charbonneau.

Mechanisms in place says Sudbury Catholic board

However, the Sudbury and District Catholic School Board says violent incidents within its schools have decreased over the years.

The board has mechanisms in place to prevent these incidents, director of education Joanne Bénard told CBC news in an emailed statement.

"One hundred percent of our schools also have a bullying prevention plan and code of conduct in place which has been communicated to all staff, students and parents and is made available online."

Inconsistent reporting of violent instances

Hawkins says the inconsistency of reporting of violent instances is problematic since some teachers are encouraged by their administrators not to report.

"We know that what is being reported to the ministry in many instances is not accurate."

The survey results show just one in 10 teachers who experience a violent incident filled out a report.

Hawkins says administrators feel reluctant to take down a teacher's report of a violent incident and forward it on to the ministry because they think it will reflect poorly on their school.

She wants to see more consistent and reliable reporting procedures in place.

"It's only if we get accurate reporting that we can actually make sure that the supports that need to be in place for students actually get there," says Hawkins.

OECTA will continue to analyze data over the summer months then present the findings to the Ministry of Education.

Hawkins wants to see the ministry make changes immediately.

"This is not something you can take your time to implement," says Hawkins.

"This is a crisis, right now. These students are in crisis. They need supports, They need help, as do their families."

With files from Robin De Angelis