New research by three Ontario teacher federations shows that almost 40 percent of Ontario teachers and education workers are subjected to bullying by students â€“ conduct characterized by a pattern of repeated disrespectful behaviour, vandalism of personal belongings, threats of physical assault, on-going verbal abuse, racial and sexual slurs or intimidation.
Unless this is checked, some students will likely grow up to be dominating, aggressive and violent adults, at huge cost to society, say the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachersâ€™ Federation (OSSTF) who commissioned the research in conjunction with the Elementary Teachersâ€™ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
Bullying in the Workplace: A Survey of Ontario’s Elementary and Secondary School Teachers and Education Workers, by James Matsui and Lang Research is one of the first studies of its kind conducted in the public education system. The study reports that part-time teachers (44 percent have been bullied by students), elementary teachers (39 percent, but 42 percent of public elementary teachers) and women teachers (39 percent) are the most likely to be subjected to student bullying. Furthermore, the study found that seven percent of teachers and education workers have been targets of physical violence or assault.
The research also shows that bullying affects both male and female teachers and education workers and that they may be targeted at any point during their career. The consequences for targets include emotional and stress-related symptoms including increased fear, loss of sleep, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, appetite loss and depression leading to absence from work.
â€œIf teachers and education workers are affected, so are the bullyâ€™s classmates,â€ says Rhonda Kimberley-Young, president of OSSTF. â€œProblems that contribute to bullying behaviour are also associated with other disabilities: children who have difficulty controlling their emotions and resort to aggression also find it difficult to learn. Students who behave this way are less skilled problem-solvers, are more likely to have language difficulties and often fail in school.â€
According to Donna Marie Kennedy, OECTA president, â€œThese students have a long history of aggressive behaviour that usually becomes evident in the early years at school. Because they can be taught from a very early age to control violent tendencies, education professionals and parents need to understand more about how to help these children find alternatives to avoid a lifetime of misery.â€
The two organizations are calling on faculties of education, school administrators and school boards, parent and community groups and governments at all levels to help them to:
â€¢ develop resources for parents
â€¢ deliver pre-service and in-service training for administrators
â€¢ deliver pre-service and in-service training for teachers
â€¢ deliver in-service training for support staff
â€¢ participate in Bullying Awareness Week, Nov. 14 to 20, 2005, organized by www.bullying.org.
The researchers surveyed 1,217 randomly selected teacher and support staff members of the ETFO, OECTA and OSSTF and interviewed the respondents during a two-week period in the spring of 2005. The total sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent 19 times out of 20.