Managing violence in schools

In wake of WorkSafeBC order, Greater Victoria School District beefs up teacher safety training

An anxious student pokes her teacher in the arm with a pencil to get her attention and accidentally breaks skin. A little boy with a history of outbursts throws a wooden building block out of frustration, hitting a teaching assistant in the leg, leaving a large, painful welt.

While teaching likely isn’t the first occupation on the list of high-risk professions, teachers are susceptible to a certain level of violence while working with students.

“In most cases these are not nasty, willful acts – they’re children who have needs that aren’t being met and are acting out in some way,” said Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

According to documents obtained by the News from WorkSafeBC, there have been at least a dozen incidents of violence against teachers in Greater Victoria schools over the past four years.

But the definition of violence in the classroom is broad. Kim Munro, the district’s director of human resources, said incidents can include when a young child is “screaming aggressively” or threatens to throw an object.

“In terms of workplace incidents, they tend to be relatively minor – usually involving students at the elementary school level,” Munro said.

And while many of the documented incidents didn’t result in physical injury, some have led teachers to feel their workplace isn’t safe.

In November 2011, an assault by a student on a teacher at Reynolds secondary resulted in injury and time off work, according to a WorkSafe report.

In October 2012, a teacher at Macaulay elementary was injured as a result of being “assaulted by a student. Subsequent to that the worker refused to have the student in the classroom,” reads a WorkSafe document.

Reports don’t identify teachers by name, and the severity and details of the incidents remain unknown.

WorkSafe reports over the last four years indicated to the district it needed to improve practices for recognizing the potential for violence, and provide clearer instructions to teachers on reporting violent behaviour.

“The only difference between a near miss and a fatality is the outcome. It is essential that near misses are investigated with (an) eye to determining root cause,” wrote WorkSafeBC inspection officer Dawn Ianson in a report to the Greater Victoria School District in December 2012.

A November 2011 incident at Rockheights middle school in Esquimalt where a teacher believed she was at risk of being injured by a student led Ianson to order the district to better instruct teachers how to spot signs and triggers that could lead to violence.

Michael Colussi, manager of occupational health and safety with SD61, said the Rockheights order prompted the district to expand its violence prevention program.

“As an organization we took that very seriously,” Colussi said. “Violence prevention is something that the school district has been working on in one form or another ever since I was here. Violence is unacceptable.”

The new program has been rolled out at all 52 of the district’s worksites. It is more robust and fills the gaps identified by WorkSafeBC, Colussi said.

“I think because of the amount of training we’ve done, the awareness around the definition of violence in a school environment is quite heightened,” he said.

Ehrcke, the GVTA president, acknowledges that violence typically stems from patterns of behavioural issues. And behavioural issues typically continue when identified students don’t have supports – like teacher assistants – in place in the classroom. The teachers’ union says it all comes to down to the province underfunding school districts.

“I’m not surprised at all this has come to a point where we’re having teachers in unsafe working environments,” Ehrcke said.

“Unless we see a reinvestment in schools, I think these problems will grow and get worse.”

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Education said special needs and special education funding to school districts have increased 60 per cent in the last 13 years.

Ehrcke said teachers are frustrated that the district hasn’t allocated enough resources for training, saying instruction is happening in 10-minute increments during staff meetings, as opposed to devoting a half or full day to training teachers.

“Workplace violence is on the increase in school districts – biting, scratching kicking, that kind of thing,” she said. “There are serious and relevant issues here and we need processes in place to ensure everyone’s safety – workers in the building, but also the children.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read