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Toronto schools seeing uptick in violence, difficult behaviour, report says

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Nearly three-quarters of principals and vice-principals at Toronto schools say that they are finding it increasingly difficult to manage student behaviour, with many of them expressing a concern about an uptick in violence.

That is one of the takeaways from a recent survey conducted by the Toronto School Administrators’ Association (TSAA), which represents 1,000 principals and vice-principals

The survey, which was conducted in January, found that 74 per cent of respondents reported difficulties “managing student behaviour post-pandemic.”

Nearly four of 10 respondents (36 per cent) also indicated that violence was on the rise in their school, “including fighting, verbal abuse, and in some cases, the possession of weapons.”

“The current situation in schools approaches a veritable perfect storm, a conflation of factors impacting the daily work school administrators engage in to promote a safe and healthy environment for all,” a report detailing the survey results states. “Some administrators have indicated that almost 90 per cent of their days are spent dealing with issues related to student behaviours, crisis intervention, or student well-being. At the same time, administrators note that at times, parental support in dealing with serious behavioural issues has led to harassment from parents and/or community members, with 40 per cent of respondents indicating a lack of support when dealing with confrontational interactions with parents and workplace harassment.”

There has been a rash of violent incidents in and in the immediate vicinity of a number of Toronto schools in recent months, including several shootings and stabbings.

Some of the more alarming incidents include the fatal shooting of a teen outside Woburn Collegiate Institute in October, a drive-by shooting in the parking lot of Weston Collegiate Institute in February that left a Grade 10 student with critical injuries and the stabbing of a youth outside Sandalwood Heights Secondary School in Brampton just three weeks ago.

The survey conducted on behalf of the TSAA found that nearly 90 per cent of respondents (89 per cent) feel “ill-equipped” to maintain school safety with their current resources.

Nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) said that board staff and superintendents have “not been responsive in terms of providing physical resources and personnel to address ongoing issues around school safety.”

The school administrators also expressed concerns about safety features in their schools, given the rise in violence.

Only about one-third of respondents (34 per cent) indicated that their schools had functioning security cameras while the remaining 66 per cent noted issues with existing cameras, a lack of cameras where needed or no cameras at all, the TSAA said.

About 28 per cent of respondents also said that there were issues with exterior doors, including them not locking properly.

“Members note trying to be effective facilities managers, requesting improvements, but often being met with delays, backorders, backlogs, or a lack of funding,” TSAA said in its report.

Approximately 56 per cent of its members responded to the survey, the association said.

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