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'Violence is a workplace hazard for teachers': Parents, expert concerned about rising violence in N.S. schools


The stabbing at Charles P. Allen High School (CPA) in Bedford, N.S., is hitting many parents hard.

“We don't want them going to school worrying about, ‘Am I going to get stabbed today? Am I going to get jumped today?’” says parent Tamara Beazley.

That fear has been the top of Beazley’s mind long before a 15-year-old student at CPA was charged with stabbing two school staff members after the incident at the school Monday morning.

She went public with her own story last fall, after her teenage son was bullied and intimidated at his high school and allegedly threatened with students wielding knives.

No charges were ever laid in the incident, and Beazley says school administrators didn’t take it seriously.

She's among a several parents who have told CTV News that students at some schools won't use school bathrooms for fear of getting jumped.

The head of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union told CTV News last November he had also heard those concerns.

“Why don't they have metal detectors at the schools?” asks Beazley. “It's the safety of the students and facilitators that are there teaching and I brought this up, (and) didn't really get an answer."

Over the past several months, a parent advocacy group, called Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education, has been raising the alarm over violence in schools.

“So, we're over 13,000 incidents in a year as far as violent incidents is concerned, and that doesn't include everything,” says group administrator and parent Stacey Rudderham.

Rudderham’s referring to a recent freedom of information request now posted online that indicates there were 13,776 violent incidents in Nova Scotia schools for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Figures from a similar information request for the previous year show there were 11,240 such incidents from September to June in the 2020-2021 school year.

That calculates to a 22.6 per cent increase in the number of incidents year over year.

Rudderham believes there are incidents that don’t get reported by school administrations.

“There are a number of reasons for that,” she says. “School administrators don’t allow staff to do their own reporting, so they make a choice as to what gets reported.”

“Parents are really at their wit's end a lot of the time trying to get their child's safety resolved in schools, because there doesn't seem to be consequences, there doesn't seem to be consistent follow up,” she adds.

“What's not reported is school damage reports, sexual assaults, sexual harassment,” says education analyst and adjunct professor of education Paul Bennett.

He says regional education centres and the provincial department of education only seem to downplay the problem.

“As if it was all some freak occurrence, but we know from listening to teachers and educational workers going back maybe five years, that this has been a worsening problem,” says Bennett.

Bennett points to other recent incidents, including the stabbing of a youth outside Halifax West High School last October, as evidence of ongoing issues exacerbated by pandemic disruptions.

“I think it’s the ‘bitter harvest’ of the pandemic and we’re beginning to see some of the manifestations that are shown in pressure, violence, and chaotic schools that are disrupted and having trouble settling down,” he says.

Bennett believes poor teen mental health, and families under strain due to the present state of society, are also contributing factors.

In January, Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education published numbers it says it obtained from the provincial Workers' Compensation Board, showing the 10-year rate of claims made by education workers due to violence surpassed all other professions, at 11.3 per cent.

“Violence is a workplace hazard for teachers,” says Rudderham. “And that boggles the mind.”

“The minister needs to step up and make things up and make things right, and help the students, the teachers, the principals,” says Beazley.

In her case, she says she drives her son to school out of concern for his safety and mental health.

“Things have settled down for him, which is really great,” she says. “(But) there should be more done … It’s unreal.” Top Stories

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