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Ontario Teachers Say Mental Stress and Workplace Violence Are Dominant Health and Safety Issues

A recent survey conducted for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has found that mental stress, workplace violence and workplace harassment are the three most pressing concerns affecting Ontario’s 76,000 elementary teachers and professional educators.

One of the most alarming areas highlighted in the survey was that the majority of recipients found that school boards across Ontario were failing to live up to their obligations according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Almost 50% of the recipients said that their particular institutions lacked workplace violence programs or adequate training for staff in responding to workplace violence. In addition, many boards had not been providing complete information on students with a history of violent behavior.

Teachers’ Union representatives who responded to the survey placed part of the blame for the renewed problems with violence in the classrooms down to a lack of resources:

Partly their hands are tied. There are inadequate human resources for the principal, to say, assign an education assistant to help manage the individual student.”

Donna Howey, President of the Grand Erie District School Board’s local bargaining unit

Many schools across Ontario are now integrating special needs students into regular stream classrooms. While the majority supports this shift, respondents to the survey said that most teachers have not undergone the level of training needed to meet the behavioural requirements of special needs students.

Seventy out of 72 local union leaders completed the survey, which was distributed online in June and July.

This survey highlights the occupational hazards teachers face on a daily basis when performing their jobs.  These are things that many experienced teachers would not have imagined when they began their careers.  There is now more focus  placed on mental stress and violence within the workplace and increased governmental funding may be required to respond to new emerging issues, such as those revealed within this latest survey.

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