FACING THE FACTS:
THE ESCALATING CRISIS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL EDUCATORS IN ONTARIO


Chris Bruckert and Darcy Santor
​​
Department of Criminology
and School of Psychology

University of Ottawa

“Teachers should not feel that it's normal to feel unsafe at school. We should have far better tracking of data and a school board that is responsive to escalating violence in schools. Year over year, morale is slipping as teachers and EAs are ​feeling lost and unsupported.”
The harassment and violence against educators project
Between the 4th and 21st of December (2018), 1,688 educators participated in the Harassment and Violence against Educators (Ontario) Survey. Ontario elementary school educators (contract and occasional teachers, PSP/ESPs, ECEs/DECEs, and other educational professionals) were asked about their experiences of a broad range of workplace harassment (e.g., slurs, insults, and put-downs) as well as threats, attempts, and acts of physical aggression in the 2017-2018 school year. The goal of this research was to examine the frequency, impact, and response to harassment and violence against educators in publicly funded elementary schools in Ontario and to consider how experiences of harassment and violence are impacted by intersecting identities.  
     Download the report and more    
The Team
  1. Chris Bruckert
    Dr. Chris Bruckert is a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa. The author of Gendered violence in Canada: An intersectional approach (2018), she has been actively involved in teaching about and mobilizing against, gendered violence for over twenty-five years.
  2. Darcy Santor
    Dr. Darcy A. Santor is a professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has a long-standing interest in mental health in young people and in school-based mental health.
  1. Brittany Mario
    Brittany Mario is a fourth year doctoral program in Criminology at the University of Ottawa.
  2. Kyle McBride
    Kyle McBride is a first-year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa.
  3. Darby Mallory
    Darby Mallory is a third year student in the joint honours program in Women’s Studies and Sociology at the University of Ottawa.

Key Findings

Several key findings emerged from the ​2017-2018 Harassment and Violence against Educators (Ontario) Survey. These include:
  • Results of the study suggest that there has been an almost seven-fold increase in the experience of violence against educators in the past 12 years when the first Canadian surveys examining violence against educators were conducted. 

  • 54% of educators reported experiencing violence in the form of physical force (e.g., hitting, kicking, biting) during the 2017-2018 school year; 60% reported an attempt to use physical force and 49% experienced a threat to use physical force. Overwhelmingly this violence was student perpetrated.

  • 72% of respondents reported experiencing explicit verbal insults, putdowns, and/or obscene gestures from a student in the 2017-2018 school year; 41% experienced this sort of behaviour from a parent.

  • Vulnerability to harassment and violence is conditioned by intersecting factors. For example, rates of harassment and violence from students are statistically higher among educators identifying as racialized, disabled, women, or LGBTQ.

  • For most educators who experience harassment it is a repetitive, frequent, and ongoing occurrence with an average of 8.5 occasions of insults, put-downs, gestures from students, 2.77 from parents, 3.98 from colleagues and 4.21 from administrators in the 2017-2018 school year).  
     
  • Educators report: feeling unsupported by administrators; that common strategies (e.g., Personal Protective Equipment) are addressing symptoms rather than root causes, and that there is a disturbing normalization of violence in Ontario’s elementary schools.  
     
  • Higher levels of either harassment or physical violence are associated with diminished physical and mental health as well as lower job performance even when assessed some six months after the school year in which the harassment and violence occurred.

  • It is estimated that the costs associated with lost time due to harassment and violence against educators in Ontario public elementary schools are in excess of 3 million dollars annually.

  • Almost half of educators did not report their worst incident of workplace violence in the past year.

  • Harassment and violence against elementary school educators is a gender issue. Not only are upwards of 85% of these workers women but gender is evident in the nature of the violence and in the institutional response.

  • Only 36% of educators are confident in their ability to deal with an incident of physical violence; the majority would welcome social-emotional learning programs (68%) and non-physical intervention programs (55%).

  • Educators overwhelmingly identify the need for more – and better allocation and access to – staff and supports (e.g., educational assistants, mental health specialists) and earlier identification of student needs.