Elementary teachers union says violence ‘normalized’ in schools, blames Ford government

The majority of Ontario elementary teachers have personally experienced violence or witnessed it against other staff, according to a new survey. As Tina Yazdani reports, the premier's response to the findings is raising eyebrows.

The union representing elementary school teachers in Ontario says violence is being “normalized” in schools and it’s not shy about playing the blame game — pointing the finger directly at Doug Ford’s government for the deteriorating situation.

That message from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) came on the heels of a disturbing survey released Monday that revealed 77 per cent of ETFO members have experienced or witnessed violence against another staff member.

The survey was conducted in February and March, 2023.

According to ETFO, the escalating violence is a direct result of chronic underfunding by the Ford government.

“Learning is being disrupted and violence is being normalized in schools because the Ford government refuses to adequately invest in public education,” ETFO President Karen Brown said in a release.

“The system is suffering from chronic underfunding, under-resourcing, and understaffing, creating environments where student needs are going unmet.”

“The province must provide adequate funding so learning and working environments are physically and psychologically safe for students, teachers, and education workers.”

The survey, conducted by Strategic Communications Inc. for ETFO, also found that 86 per cent of ETFO members who work in special education “have personally experienced violence or witnessed it against another staff person.”

Four-out-of-five members also believe the situation is progressively worsening, saying there’s more violence now than when they starting working in the Ontario public elementary school system.

The severity of violence has also increased since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, according to two-thirds of members.

Full results of the survey can be found here.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce responded to the concerns brought on by the survey, stressing that his government is committed to investing in the mental health of students.

“I understand that the demands are rising, we share that concern,” Lecce said. “I mean the issues in our communities and frankly across the country, of violence, are having a real impact on schools.

“We are, and continue to believe, that mental health is a critical way that we can reduce those impacts,” he said, adding that the province has “massively increased mental health funding.”

Lecce also said the government is adding 2,000 more frontline teachers and increasing funding by $12 million for the upcoming school semester this September.

But Brown maintains that it’s not enough, saying “many school spaces are not safe.”

“Especially for those working on the front lines with students whose needs are not being met,” she said.

“There is a critical need for more educational assistants, special education teachers, psychologists, behavioural therapists, school support counsellors, child and youth workers and speech-language pathologists to meet the promise of an inclusive education system.”

Ford also commented about the survey results during a visit to Mississauga on Monday where he announced funding for firefighter training.

“Well isn’t that a shame,” he said when asked about the survey’s disturbing results. “When we all grew up that’s the last thing you’d think of, was hitting a teacher or showing violence towards a teacher. I think honestly as well it starts at home.

“Man, I’ll speak for my parents, god forbid I ever went up and hit a teacher, I’d get twice the hit when I got home and I think everyone out there would say the same thing.

“For the kids, you guys have to get your act together and don’t ever go after a teacher.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today