Teachers face assault by parents and students

Yukon teachers being kicked, punched and threatened by students and their parents. It’s a problem that’s affecting the quality of…

Yukon teachers being kicked, punched and threatened by students and their parents.

It’s a problem that’s affecting the quality of education and needs to be addressed by the education system and by society at large, says Jim Tredger, president of the Yukon Teachers Association.

“What we’re seeing is increasing disrespect to teachers,” said Tredger on Tuesday. “I think it’s a problem that’s gradually been building up over the years.”

The growing problem could be due to societal factors, such as divorce rates, parents being forced to work more than one job and the time children spend watching television, said Tredger.

The extent of the problem became quite clear after the union surveyed its members in the spring.

In that survey, most of the 157 respondents indicated they had been targets of threats or violence, said Tredger.

“Over 75 per cent of Yukon teachers said they have experienced personal insults, name-calling and other verbal abuse at some point in their teaching career,” he said.

“Teachers have been verbally abused by students and by students and parents.

“Over 40 per cent of teachers said they’d been the targets of physical violence not involving a weapon.

“They’ve been kicked or sworn at.”

It also showed Yukon educators had to deal with weapons and property damage.

Eleven per cent had been victims of violence by someone using a weapon, 14 per cent of respondents had received threats or actual violence against a family member and 45 per cent had their personal property damaged, according to the survey.

Seventeen per cent of respondents had taken time off work because of violent and/or abusive behaviour and 11 per cent have accessed employee assistance programs.

The impacts of the abuse vary, according to the survey.

Twenty-six per cent of those surveyed reported feeling sad, 27 per cent experienced headaches, 30 per cent were fatigued, 32 per cent were angry, 38 per cent had trouble sleeping and 52 per cent were frustrated.

The Education department has been taking steps to deal with the problems, said Dave Sloan, superintendent of schools.

Teachers and other people on staff have been receiving threat-assessment training, safety plans have been developed and psychologists and behavioural specialists are on staff, he said.

Punishments for students vary from having a meeting with parents to suspension, said Sloan.

On other levels, many schools such as Jack Hulland and Selkirk Elementary have been implementing their own programs to promote safe and respectful school cultures, he said.

The department also has options for parents who behave inappropriately and threaten staff.

Education officials can enact the School Trespass Act whereby problem parents are required to get a principal’s permission before entering school property or face removal by the RCMP.

It’s a measure that’s had to be used twice in the last two years, said Sloan.

And, like Tredger, Sloan said he believes the problem of “social trends” is getting worse.

Just look at some of the music they’re exposed to, he said.

“Some of the musicians are semi-literate thugs who (promote) misogyny and violence.”

The survey, conducted between March and May involved mainly women employed in the education system. They had an average of 14 years experience.

Contact Matthew Grant at matthewg@yukon-news.com