They looked like police evidence used for a domestic assault case. They weren’t. They were pictures of Hamilton educators highlighting the very real harms they had suffered at the hands of their students.
It’s shocking but true. And it’s not just happening in Hamilton. It’s happening all over the province, country, and beyond.
We are witnessing in real time a disturbing culture change: Students are regularly abusing their teachers and other school staff. Not just high school students. Young ones. Elementary kids also.
When I solicited calls on a talk radio show I was hosting, teachers and educational assistants told their stories. One educator relayed how she had bent down to pick up classroom material when a Grade 4 student kicked her hard on the back from behind. It wasn’t a mild kick. She was injured and had to take time off work.
Another anecdote concerned a young student who made an aggressive sexual joke towards a teacher.
As if these rising incidents aren’t bad enough, teachers say that when they report these abuses to their principals and other higherups, they’re told there is nothing that can be done. The students suffer no consequences. No detention. No going to the principal’s office. No confiscating of, say, video games. Nothing. The supervisors shrug it off. In some cases, the educators are blamed for somehow having set the kids off.
The Hamilton school board’s annual report shows 4,330 violent incident reports were filed by school staff in the 2022/2023 school year. That’s more than double the tally from the previous year. While the majority of them were classified as “no injury,” the number requiring first aid grew to 499 compared to 139 the previous year.
A new poll by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation found that 35 percent of their members reported having had physical aggression used against them by students. It should be noted that the reporting is much higher for educators who work with special needs students, but the abusive behaviour is also increasing among the general student body.
The position of education unions is that more resources and funding are needed. That may be part of the issue. But what we also have here is a cultural problem.
Teachers now fear their students. How on earth did this come to be? If anything, it should be the other way around. Kids should have a healthy dose of nervousness around what will happen to them if they act up and misbehave.
I can vividly remember crying in the hallways after I was sent to stand outside the principal’s office for getting up to no good in primary school. I felt shame and remorse. I was afraid of whatever consequences I would face. I was also afraid of what punishment I would receive from my parents after they got the call from the office that I had acted up.
Nowadays, kids rarely get sent into the hall anymore for bad behaviour. They hardly even get told off by the teacher.
We need to turn this around and bring back consequences. The immediate reason is because this is no way to run a school system. Teachers and school staff are owed a safe work environment.
We also need to do it because of the important long-term cultural reasons. What sort of adults will these kids become? If they never learn consequences and never learn good behaviour, that will only create havoc later in life.
I find it hard to believe that most parents wouldn’t support a return to some form of discipline in the school system. The rise of the helicopter parent has definitely played a role in coddling our kids. But surely everyone can see, looking at the pictures of the abused Hamilton educators, that this is no way to run an education system and no way to raise a generation of kids.
It’s time for basic tools like detentions to make a comeback. Otherwise, who knows how much worse things can get.