According to a national study conducted by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), the growing number of violent – and underreported — incidents towards teachers is often linked to a lack of critical resources and supports for students in schools.
The findings of the federation’s first-ever Pan-Canadian Research Review on violence in schools were shared this morning with approximately 150 educators and education leaders attending the Canadian Forum on Public Education underway in Edmonton. The Forum theme is “Safe and Caring Schools”.
“Today’s teachers are faced with many challenges, including teaching to increasingly complex classrooms, encompassing diverse cultural, academic, behavioral and social skill sets and backgrounds,” explains CTF President H. Mark Ramsankar. “They require educational support and resources such as assistants, psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to support their students’ learning experiences.
“According to studies, a child’s feelings of abandonment in which his/her educational, social and emotional needs are not being met may lead to violent outbursts,” adds Ramsankar. “And that violence against teachers is taking a toll on educators’ mental and physical well-being as well as their self-worth as professionals.”
The CTF research points to some of the drivers behind the increased rates of violence: widespread underfunding for public education; lack of resources and supports for addressing violence against teachers (including in-service supports and training), and serious inadequacies in services and supports for student mental health, behavioural, and special education needs.
Other key findings:
• Rates of violence experienced by teachers are very high; ranging from 41% to 90% of surveyed teachers in jurisdictions across Canada. A significant majority of teachers (>70%), when surveyed, also report that both rates and severity of violence in schools are increasing.
• Rates of violence experienced by teachers tended to be higher for teachers who are: 1) women, 2) working in elementary schools, 3) working in schools in lower socioeconomic status locations and/or large metropolitan areas, and 4) working as special education teachers.
• Non-physical (verbal/emotional) violence is the most frequently reported type of violence experienced by educators, followed by physical violence. Students are the perpetrators of this violence in a very large majority (typically over 90%) of reported incidents.
• Violence directed towards teachers has a strong, negative impact on teacher well-being, is associated with increased rates of depression in teachers, may lead to teacher burnout, changing schools, and/or leaving the profession. In addition, teachers may also experience physical health symptoms, including physical injury, headaches, and fatigue.
• While a large majority of teachers experience and/or witness some form of violence in their schools, research confirms that there is significant underreporting of violence to school administrators and/or police.
“Teachers are caring professionals who are committed to their students,” adds Ramsankar. “In fact, the report discovered that teachers underreport violent incidents out of concern for their students and also because they fear it may reflect poorly on their worth as an educator.
We, as a society, have a responsibility to ensure professional expertise, resources and support are in place in schools,” Ramsankar concludes.
Founded in 1920, the CTF is a non-profit organization and a national alliance of provincial and territorial Member organizations that represent over 238,000 teachers across Canada. @CanTeachersFed and @EnseigneCanada