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CESD concerned with increased student aggression toward teachers

Chinook's Edge School Division staff have been injured by students
MVT stock Chinook's Edge building front
File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL - A new survey from the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) has found a troubling rise in student aggression against teachers, staff and their fellow students in many schools.

The results of the Aggression in Schools: A Comprehensive Examination survey were released earlier this week.

Kurt Sacher is the superintendent of the 11,000-student Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD), which is headquartered in Innisfail and includes K-12 schools across the district. 

“We’ve seen staff injuries from dysregulated students and whose injuries have increased over the past few years,” Sacher told the Albertan. “We’ve noticed an increase enough that we are concerned about that and we are taking active steps to try to make sure that we really minimize the times when staff are hurt on the job. That is very concerning to us.”

Work is ongoing in CESD to help teachers and staff deal with aggressive behaviour from students, he said.

“We need to support school leaders and teachers and educational assistants on a school by school basis, providing supports from multiple perspectives,” he said.

“We’ve got a number of initiatives underway where we are trying to help our staff be as skilled as they possibly can be to deal with what we’ve noticed has been an increasing level of complexity arriving at their doorstep.

“We are trying to be as responsive as we can be as a school division and we know that we need to make some adjustments to increase our responsiveness. And we want to support them as best we can.”

The Aggression in Schools: A Comprehensive Examination survey saw more than 2,000 teachers, and school leaders (such as principals) surveyed.

More than half of the respondents said they have experienced bullying or violence in their school workplace environments.

The aggressive behaviour predominately occurred in-person (95 per cent) and was mainly perpetrated by students in the teacher’s own classroom (60 per cent).

As well, 71 per cent of responding teachers and school leaders reported that they have observed students making demeaning or hateful remarks toward classmates who have differing views, leaning to hostile exchanges in classrooms. 

Those remarks have been repeated to sexual orientation and gender identity (69 per cent), race (63 per cent), COVID-19 policies (50 per cent), and climate change (31 per cent).

Increased aggression observed by respondents was seen in both urban and rural schools.

The ATA, which represents more than 45,000 Alberta teachers, is calling on the UPC government to do more to counter aggression in schools.

Specifically, the association would like to see the province “develop strategies to protect the physical and mental health of stuff, ensuring a safe working environment for all.”

“The safety of all Alberta teachers and students must be prioritized by the government,” said ATA president Jason Schilling. 

“Our schools need to be a place where optimal leaning environments are fully funded while ensuring safety, respect and support.”

Sundre-area MLA and Smith cabinet minister Jason Nixon provided the Albertan a statement regarding the ATA survey and its findings.

“The safety of our teachers, staff, and students is of utmost importance to our government,” said Nixon. “We recognize that today’s classrooms are becoming more and more complex, which is why we have allocated $44 million through the classroom complexity grant to ensure our students and classrooms receive the attention they deserve.

“The minister of Education continues to work collaboratively with the Alberta Teachers' Association, school boards and other partners to come-up with the right solutions."

The province has allocated $1.2 billion over three years to facilitate the hiring of more than 3,000 additional teachers and support staff, he noted.

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