'Shifting' social norms playing a role in school violence, education director says

The education director for a Sudbury, Ont. school board says the education system, the home and society all need to play a role in addressing violence in schools.

New data complied by CBC sheds light on violence in schools

The education director for a Sudbury, Ont. school board says the education system, the home and society all need to play a role in addressing violence in schools.

CBC News has commissioned a survey of more than 4,000 young Canadians aged 14 to 21 to understand the realities of verbal, physical and sexual violence in classrooms.

Nationally, 35 per cent said they have been physically assaulted at least once in elementary or middle school. More than half (57 per cent) of teens reported being called hateful names. 

Almost half of the students (45 per cent) who experienced violence in high school say they didn't report it to officials.

Norm Blaseg, the director of education for the Rainbow District School Board, says he hopes the data will be the start of more studies on the topic to see what direction violence trends are moving in throughout the education system.

"Quite often when you're establishing a benchmark, it doesn't mean it's necessarily increasing to date, it just means this is what it is today," he said.

"I'm not belittling the stats because they're very discouraging."

Blaseg says it's complicated why violence is happening in schools and not always being reported. He says "social norms appear to be shifting" in society, which is playing a role.

"Individuals are not exercising the filters they should have in terms of trying to ensure that they don't act out or they don't verbally abuse people," he said.

Rainbow District School Board's director of education, Norm Blaseg. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

"Having said that, there are significant pressures associated with poverty, family dynamics and a lack of supports. These are having an impact on school environments but more specifically, they're having an impact on kids as they grow up."

Five years ago, Blaseg says the board had no social workers on staff. Today, they have 10.

"Mental health and associated challenges with mental health are quite significant," he said.

"We are challenged by it and we've had to develop our own internal system to support our students and our staff."

He adds that kids don't always understand they need to report violence or they have in the past and nothing was done. Blaseg says there is stigma in reporting violence.

"That stigma is if you report, you're tattling," he said.

"If children are going to put themselves out there and report these things without fear of reprisal, they need to at least feel confident that their message is heard and there will be an appropriate matter in which it's resolved."

The CBC survey was undertaken by Mission Research with the approach and questions developed by the CBC. Forty per cent of respondents were from Ontario.

With files from Kate Rutherford


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