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TDSB says 323 students involved in violence so far this school year

More than 300 students have been involved in violence on school property so far this academic year, the Toronto District School Board said as it outlined a plan to address the issue.

In a report on school safety being shared with trustees at a meeting Wednesday, the TDSB said a total of 323 students have been involved in violence on school premises between September and April.

The board said that number is the highest since at least 2018-19, when 267 students were involved in violence on school grounds.

This academic year's figure is on track to reach a new high since data on violence started being collected in 2000, if the current trend continues.

The board said it is implementing a plan to address school violence that includes working with community partners and hiring more safety monitors, youth counsellors and school workers.

"This implementation highlights the fact that school and community safety is the collective responsibility of all levels of government, community agencies and other organizations, faith-based groups and all Greater Toronto Area School Boards," the TDSB report said.

"Schools are a reflection of the communities within which they exist, and as such there has also been an increase in violent incidents in TDSB schools."

The TDSB said about 85 per cent of its school administrators and superintendents have completed new training on school safety and 20 of its staff members received special training to assess violence threats.

The board said it is also introducing a new audit process for all of its schools "to heighten system and school accountability and to create the safest possible schools."

The TDSB has been working with community partners to expand learning and recreational program offerings outside school hours including tutoring, mentoring and the provision of nutrition services, it said.

"To facilitate this programming the TDSB continues to expand partnerships with local culturally responsive community organizations and faith-based groups in support of school and community safety," the board said.

"The selection of these groups has been made with input from parents/guardians/caregivers, students, school leaders, local trustees and community members."

The Ontario government said last month it would allocate $1.8 million to the TDSB to support its work with community organizations to address school violence.

Earlier this week, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario said three-quarters of its members reported experiencing or witnessing violence against staff members.

The union commissioned a survey of its members earlier this year and found that 42 per cent of its members have had a physical injury, illness or psychological injury or illness as a result of workplace violence against them this school year.

Several high schools in Toronto have experienced violence this academic year.

On Oct. 31, a shooting outside Woburn Collegiate Institute left one student dead and another injured. Toronto police have since charged a 17-year-old suspect with second-degree murder.

In November, a stabbing inside Birchmount Park Collegiate left a 17-year-old student with life-threatening injuries. Police said later they had charged two 14-year-olds and one 17-year-old with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon.

Stephen Mensah, executive director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet – the city’s official youth advisory body – said the rise in violence in Toronto schools shows a need for stronger social supports to address root causes.

He said many young people in Toronto are suffering from poverty, violence and crime and they need support through programs that help them find employment.

"We need to make sure young people have access to community hubs where they can get access to support services," he said, adding that more funding was needed for programs to prevent young people from getting involved in crime.

"We need to make sure we just double our efforts to lift young people out of their conditions when we talk about poverty."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2023. Top Stories

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