Violence against school support staff reaches unprecedented levels

20 November 2023

For many years, the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) has been saying we need to act immediately to deal with violence in our schools, to protect both students and staff. With this new report on the situation in a regional school, we have irrefutable proof that violence against school support staff is reaching unprecedented levels.

Staff who provide direct services to students, which includes special education technicians, handicapped students attendants and student supervisors, are on the front lines dealing with violence in our schools, but unfortunately they all too often find themselves the victims of the students they are trying to help.

FPSS-CSQ President Éric Pronovost says, “it’s not normal for people to go to work in fear and to be constantly hypervigilant when they are there. The Education Minister must make school environments safe for staff and students. The latest announcement from the Education Minister on violence prevention does not meet these needs.”

Lack of resources

The glaring lack of resources in the school system has a lot to do with this. School support staff often have to settle for urgent action and putting out fires, rather than acting in advance to prevent violent situations. There is an even greater level of urgency in regional and superregional schools with missions to deal with specific clienteles.

Éric Pronovost says: “Information and training are often inadequate. Replacement employees are thrown into these situations with no knowledge of the students’ files or adequate training to deal with students who behave erratically and who pose a threat to other students and staff. This is unacceptable and must change.

“We need to stop saying that being attacked is part of the job. We must no longer tolerate the fact that it has become normal for school support staff to be hit several times a day, every day, or for them to leave work on a stretcher.”

Since 1999, government policies have been implemented to provide better services to students with disabilities and social maladjustments or learning difficulties. Some of these services involve collaboration between the health and education systems, to better serve our special needs students. But most of these policies have not been updated since they came into force approximately 20 years ago.

The union leader says that “the number of special needs students has increased significantly over the past 20 years. Between 2012 and 2022, there was a 31.7% increase in the number of special needs students integrated into regular classes. But the services provided by government policies have not kept up with this increase, quite the contrary.”

The labour shortage in the health and education systems has devastating effects on our most vulnerable students. In 2011, the Education Minister requested an account of how many preschool, primary and secondary students in complex situations experienced service breakdowns. We learned that only 496 of the 1,481 students who experienced such a situation benefited from the mechanism that was put in place to provide consultation or resolution of complex situations with partners in the health and social service network.

Éric Pronovost concludes that “our school system, on its own, cannot bear all the responsibility for helping the students who need it most. Schools and parents are doing their best, but we now realize that we have exhausted all our resources. In the interest of our students, constant collaboration between the various networks has become essential.”