The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) released a call to action to address the critical lack of support for students facing serious behavioural issues that can lead to violent incidents in classrooms.
Among its recommendations, ETFO is calling on the government to adequately fund special education programs, set up inter-ministerial supports to build capacity for children’s mental health services and support school board compliance, reporting of incidents and training related to health and safety legislation and policies.
Education workers have one of the highest levels of lost-time Injuries caused by workplace violence, according to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board statistics. Elementary teachers have more than twice the rate of these lost-time Injuries as secondary teachers, according to the ETFO.
“We need to ensure school environments are physically and psychologically safe to ensure optimal teaching conditions and learning outcomes for students,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.
The union says there is a "critical need" for more special education teachers, educational assistants, psychologists, behavioural therapists, school support counsellors, child and youth workers and speech language pathologists
School boards need to ensure that incidents of workplace violence are reported and dealt with effectively, recommends the ETFO. The sooner issues are addressed, the more likely that supports for students can be provided.
The ETFO also says school boards must reinforce the leadership role of superintendents and principals in making health, safety and well-being a priority for everyone in the school community. Ongoing health and safety training for them must be a school board priority.
“There must be an effective system in place for staff to report health and safety concerns including incidents of workplace violence, followed by prompt investigation by principals and superintendents. This is the most effective way for assuring that prompt and effective actions will be taken for early intervention and the avoidance of future harm,” said the ETFO.
The union also says that all staff, not just teachers, should have health and safety training about legal requirements and school board procedures.