General Secretary Sharon O’Halloran
Photo by Kathryn Gaitens

ETFO’s Multi-Year Violence Strategy in Action

Sharon O’Halloran

A political strategy that ensures that education issues are top of mind for all three parties and a campaign to address the funding formula have framed the significant work we have done to address violence in the classroom since my last column. ETFO has made important gains through advocacy and action and through local and provincial meetings with government officials and MPPs. In October, ETFO staff met with the Minister of Labour’s senior staff to reinforce the need for monitoring violence in schools and the importance of ensuring that the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety – a government consultation body that includes representation from education stakeholder organizations – delivers promised resources and guidelines in January.

The working group is currently developing a resource for workplace violence reporting procedures called the “Roadmap for Workplace Violence Reporting Procedures in School Boards,” which is intended to serve as a framework for current and future training resources and guidance materials.

Ministry of Labour enforcement meetings have already begun. A team of ministry representatives will visit each district school board between October 2017 and March 2018 to review school boards’ violence policies and programs, risk assessment, work refusals, training and reporting, as well as the effectiveness of joint health and safety committees. Our local leaders will also be in attendance at these enforcement meetings.

In addition, all members are entitled to training on a half-day PA day, which includes reporting of violent incidents. Training on reporting of violent incidents was achieved through our 2017-19 extension agreement discussions and includes all permanent and occasional teachers, DECEs, ESPS and PSPs.

We have developed three training modules on Reporting Workplace Violence and Serious Student Incidents, Risk Assessment and Safety Plans, and Violence and Workplace Injury and Illness. The modules were created for local stewards and can be delivered by staff upon request.

ETFO staff have developed these training modules and an accompanying series of videos to highlight information that members and locals need when dealing with violent incidents in schools. The first module and video outline reporting procedures for violent incidents and set out the legal responsibilities for members, schools boards and principals. The second module and video summarize what might be in a risk assessment, when an assessment should be reviewed and updated, what a safety plan might include, and how a member should report concerns if these processes are inadequate. The third module and video in the series deals with violence related to workplace injury and illness. These, along with other tools, are available for members at

In October, we also launched our survey on violence, which went out to over 70,000 members. The survey focused on observations of workplace violence, personal experience with violence, reporting and support for dealing with workplace violence as well as issues such as time off work due to violence, protective equipment and personal impact. The survey was intended to give us a clearer picture of our members’ experiences and to assess whether schools are adhering to reporting procedures. The survey closed in mid-November. We will be sharing results with our locals and our members in the new year.

Our multi-year, multi-faceted strategy means that we take violence in the classroom seriously. Our goal is to continue the everyday work of ensuring our members have safe working environments while also campaigning to address a funding formula that was never consistent with student need. The coming provincial election is a critical opportunity for ETFO members to get mobilized and to pressure all three political parties to place education issues high on their agendas.

Stay in touch by subscribing to the ETFO enewsletter at and get the most up to date health and safety information at

- Sharon O’Halloran