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Almost 80% of Ontario teachers report experiencing or witnessing violence, survey finds

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Almost 80 per cent of Ontario teachers reported personally experiencing or witnessing violence, according to a new survey.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) shared “concerning” results from a survey of its members conducted in February and March.

“The results are alarming and distressing and action must be taken at the provincial, and school board levels,” ETFO President Karen Brown said at the union’s provincial office in Toronto on Monday morning.

The vast majority, 80 per cent, of staff members reported violent incidents have increased since they began working in public education while 66 per cent said the incidents are more severe, Brown said.

Since the pandemic began, ETFO members reported violent incidents increasing by 72 per cent, the survey found. This is not a new issue, but it is “escalating and rising,” Brown said.

“What we are seeing is a symptom of a bigger problem. Ontario students are under supported because our public education system is underfunded,” Lisa Dunbar, a teacher for more than 20-years and an ETFO member, said on Monday.

“I want to be clear, students are not to blame. The government is failing them time and time again, especially those who are most vulnerable,” Dunbar added.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to the report’s findings while at a separate announcement on Monday. He said violence “starts at home” and insisted students “respect your teachers.”

“They have a tough job. The kids, you guys gotta get your act together,” Ford said.

“If you're asking me about putting policing in schools, while I think that decisions have been made, so we're gonna always advocate for the teachers to make sure there's never violence in our schools.”

Contrary to the premier’s comments, Brown said the Ford government has “starved” the public education system of funding, leaving it understaffed and under-resourced. In doing so, she said the government is contributing to the rise and severity of violence in schools.

The union 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.

ETFO represents approximately 83,000 members, including public elementary teachers, early childhood educators, education support personnel, and professional support personnel. 

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