OECTA targets bullying

By 
  • December 5, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Bullying should be labelled a workplace hazard to make schools safer, says a proposal made to provincial legislators by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

But the proposal isn’t suggesting that Catholic schools are more dangerous than any other workplace, said Elaine MacNeil, president of OECTA.

Rather, it seeks to ensure that the association is responding to teachers’ concerns and also shows how Catholic schools face similar challenges as other workplaces.

Classifying bullying as a workplace hazard would mean amending Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Unlike sexual harassment or racial discrimination, workplace bullying isn’t covered by provincial laws.

According to OECTA, the absence of a legislated process for confronting workplace bullying and harassment puts teachers’ health and safety at risk.

This proposal would end the “culture of silence” around reporting violence and harassment, it added.

According to OECTA’s latest statistics, 38 per cent of Ontario teachers have been threatened by students and 48 per cent said they witnessed incidents that involved injuries, property damage or weapons at school.  

The 2005 survey was commissioned by OECTA, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

OECTA said it made the proposal at a Nov. 5 “Lobby Day” at Queen’s Park where its members met with some MPPs.

Joe Pece, OECTA department head of counselling and member services, said this proposal for workplace legislation change stems from many recent phone calls the association has received from its members who encountered violent behaviour not only from students but also from parents and administrators.

Violent behaviour from bullying can range from psychological harassment such as uttering racial or sexual slurs to physical assault.  

MacNeil also said virtues education being taught in Catholic schools needs to be carried over to the home. Parents and teachers need to work together and “be on the same page on discipline,” she said.

Brian Evoy, president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, said he is unable to speak for the association, but as a father of three children, he said he supported OECTA’s proposal.

Yet the message of virtues education, he said, is counteracted by television programs that condone bullying as acceptable behaviour in society.

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