Open letter to the minister of education on school violence

Dear Minister Flemming,

On May 24 of last year I had the pleasure to meet with you in Smithers to discuss the growing concern of educators and parents about the lack of human resources in the classroom to address behaviour, the emotional needs of students, and policies of inclusion. The teachers who met with you that afternoon were poignant in their conversation about the intensity of the unmanageable classroom and the struggle to work effectively with administration and parents to address the reality of high needs students. As a parent of two children in our public school system, I met with you to not only speak on behalf of parents who are very disturbed about the current compromised education our children are receiving, but to also support teachers’ calls for changes to the growing tide in classroom disturbances and disrespect. I would like to reiterate to you today as I did last spring, that parents want to help to make effective change and are asking for more resources to support our teachers and administrators to deal with current classroom size and composition conditions.

As I hope you are well aware, I am not alone in my observation and concerns. The CBC radio show the Sunday Edition has been airing this story for months now with record setting amounts of listener feedback. A wide spectrum of professionals and parents have all been interviewed to say that hazardous classroom conditions have been a silenced issue that is reaching a crisis level.

What should be done about the epidemic of violence in elementary school classrooms? Our recent documentary “Hard Lessons” told the shocking story of elementary school teachers who are regularly physically attacked by their young students. Why is this happening? What can be done to prevent it? And why do principals and school boards want to keep this issue from the public?

This story hits on some valuable strategies that I also have heard parents and teachers calling for such as: increased mental health support in the classroom, enforcing consequence in student lives, improving teacher-parent connections, and importantly supporting teachers to be vocal about the conditions of their classrooms and the resources they require to effectively manage students and deliver learning.

Another moving story was aired on April 7. This short story highlights a recent parent demonstration in Ontario that is quite comparable to the sentiments and school responses present in our community. The parent who speaks in this recording hits the nail on the head.

I believe with your leadership, school boards and trustees, public health agencies, school administrators, and parents can bring about change to not only restore classrooms as safe, engaging, healthy places to teach our children, but also to maintain parent faith and student enrolment in the public school system.

Thank you in advance for your time and response to this issue and my concerns.

Jennifer Hegan

Smithers

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