The Sunday Magazine

Parents want 'real solid answer' to classroom violence

With student assaults on teachers on the rise, parents in Newmarket, Ont., are rallying to find a solution. But some say their call for help is being silenced.
Educators say incidents of verbal and physical violence by students targeting staff and fellow classmates are leaving them exhausted. Now, some parents are calling for solutions. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

When a group of concerned parents in Newmarket, Ont., recently organized an event about classroom violence, school board officials did not approve. They instructed all school principals not to distribute flyers about it.

"We have never had this issue with the board not sending our flyer, and this is our fifth year for the speaker series," organizer Shameela Shakeel wrote to The Sunday Edition. "It has become clear to us that the school board does not want increased awareness of the issue of violence in our elementary schools."

In February, The Sunday Edition's producer Alisa Siegel chronicled an alarming rise in student assaults on teachers in her documentary Hard Lessons

One of the speakers at the Newmarket Parent Network event was David Clegg, president of the York Region local of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

In York Region, which includes Newmarket, the number of violent incident reports by public elementary school teachers increased by 452 per cent between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 school years.

A classroom in disarray. Violent incident reports by public elementary school teachers in York Region increased significantly between the the 2013-14 and 2017-18 school years. (Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario - York Region)

He urged parents to continue to voice their concerns to school boards and trustees.

"I think the way that you hold the board accountable is by making this a ballot question when you elect trustees," Clegg said. "Quite frankly, the statistics about participation in electing trustees are not great, and trustees have the ability to change board procedures and policies. That's their job."

The parents in the audience stressed they need immediate action.

"I understand it takes time, but there are parents here tonight who are in the trenches, whose kid is going to go to school tomorrow and experience an act of violence," one mother said. "We need a real, solid answer. Let's forget about unions, let's forget about board talk, let's forget about politics. We need a real solid answer."

The Sunday Edition is planning to present more perspectives of parents on the crisis of classroom violence in the coming weeks.