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School division working to ensure teacher, student safety

More than half of survey respondents said they have experienced bullying or violence in their school work environment.
Kathleen Finnigan, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools superintendent. Submitted photo

INNISFAIL - Efforts are ongoing in Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) to ensure that students, teachers, staff and others are always safe and secure, says superintendent Kathleen Finnigan.

“We recognize the evolving challenges posed by student complexity and student dysregulation affecting classrooms (and) the surge in unpredictable behaviour calls for a strategic shift towards a collaborative response model,” Finnigan told the Albertan last month.

“By prioritizing the identification of underlying issues and providing targeted support to help students regulate their emotions, we are committed to creating a safe and nurturing learning environment. 

“Our collective efforts aim to address the diverse needs of our students, promote social-emotional well-being, and cultivate an inclusive educational community where every individual can thrive.” 

Her comments came in response to a recently-released survey from the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) that found a troubling rise in student aggression against fellow students, teachers and others in the province.

The Aggression in Schools: A Comprehensive Examination survey saw more than 2,000 teachers and school leaders provide responses.

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

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). 

Aggressive behaviour observed included remarks related to sexual orientation and gender identify (69 per cent), race (63 per cent) and climate change (31 per cent). 

The behaviours were reported in both urban and rural schools.

RDCRS has 10,600 students, including in Innisfail and Olds.

“As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of education, we embark on a journey of understanding, empathy, and proactive solutions to ensure a psychologically and physically safe working and learning environment,” said superintendent Finnigan.

Kurt Sacher, superintendent of the 11,000 student Chinooks Edge School Division, says work is also underway in that division to address aggressive behaviour.

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

Dan Singleton

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