93 per cent of Alberta teachers have experienced bullying or violence on the job: ATA study

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A new study of aggression in Alberta schools released by the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) found 93 per cent of teachers surveyed had experienced some form bullying or violence during their career.

Of the 561 teachers surveyed for the study, 521 said they have gone through either lesser (online or face to face), moderate or serious instances of violence and bullying from students, parents or colleagues.

“Bullying and violence are taking an enormous toll on Alberta teachers,” the study states, "adversely affecting their physical, psychological and teacher-related functioning.”

Ninety-one per cent of the teachers who reported being victims of violence and bullying also reported subsequent adverse effects.

Of those teachers, 90 per cent reported experiencing stress, low self-esteem, depression and fear of revictimization.

Incidents of violence resulted in physical injury 25 per cent of the time, according to the survey, with one per cent of those resulting in hospitalization.

The study found women are more likely to be bullied than men, but no reason as to why that is.

Special education teachers were also shown to experience more bullying. The study states: “A prima facie analysis suggests that this finding is logical because of the nature of some of the students these teachers work with.”

Teachers with heavier workloads seem to be more susceptible to bullying as well, the study shows.

“It may reflect the importance of having adequate time and teaching conditions to develop positive teacher-student relationships,” says the study.

In the same vein, teachers at schools with more students were more likely to report incidents of bullying than ones who teach at schools with smaller populations.

Elementary and middle school teachers are more likely to experience threats or acts of violence, while high school teachers go through higher rates of harassment.

“This finding may reflect older students’ increased levels of understanding and ability to manage their temper,” the study says.

The survey showed that bullying against teachers is mainly perpetrated by students, with roughly half of these incidents happening during class time.

Of the student perpetrators taught by the victim, 92 per cent were said to be male. Thirty-eight per cent were in Grades 1 to 3, and 76 per cent had a history of violence.

As for student perpetrators not taught by their victims, 40 per cent were in Grades 7 to 9 and 67 per cent had a history of violence.

Of the teachers surveyed, 15 per cent said they had been bullied by parents.

According to the study, fathers are more likely to be the perpetrators, with survey respondents reporting that bullying came from the male parent 88 per cent of the time.

Roughly 25 per cent of these instances were reported to have happened during parent-teacher interviews.

Bullying by colleagues was reported by five to seven per cent of the teachers surveyed.

The survey shows that up to 75 per cent of perpetrators of violence or bullying are repeat offenders.

“Current practices for dealing with violence or bullying do not prevent repetition,” the study states.

The study concludes that there is a need for increased awareness and exploration of the issue of aggression in schools to work toward resolution.

“To provide not only a safe work environment for teachers,” the study says. “But also a healthy learning environment for students.”

When asked for comment on the new ATA report, Minister of Education Adriana Lagrange’s Press Secretary, Colin Aitchison said their office had just been made aware of the study.

“(We) are going to take time to carefully review the survey that was conducted by the teacher’s union,” he said in a written statement to CTV News.

“We all agree that aggressive behavior or violence in a school is completely unacceptable. If a teacher is criminally attacked, we fully expect schools/school divisions to involve appropriate law enforcement authorities.”