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Teachers facing increased aggression

November 17, 2020 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor


Report finds threats of violence and bullying are commonplace

A new ATA-led study has found that violence and bullying against teachers is widespread in Alberta.

A report released by the Alberta Teachers’ Association reveals that 93 per cent of respondents have experienced some form of bullying or aggression during their career. The study was a response to reports of increasing aggression against teachers in Alberta and across Canada, and the results are consistent with findings in other provinces.

Conducted in the summer of 2019, the survey found that some teachers were at higher risk of experiencing aggression or bullying, such as

  • women,
  • teachers working with special needs students,
  • teachers with heavy workloads,
  • teachers at schools with large student populations, and
  • elementary and middle school teachers.

The responses show that most bullying involved face-to-face, direct communication, but that 35 per cent of the incidents occurred online, such as through email or social media.



Read it in full.

The full report is available for viewing at  
> Public Education
> Education Research
> Research Publications



“Schools allegedly have zero tolerance for such behaviour, but the results of this study show that teachers experience a lack of effective tools, active support or political will to deal effectively with the problem,” the report states. “The combination of established routines (such as evacuating other students) and ineffective tools suggests that violence against teachers is becoming normalized as a condition.”

Teachers participating in the study reported that bullying was mainly perpetrated by students. About half of these incidents occurred during class time, and 28 per cent occurred during classroom management or discipline activities.

Student perpetrators directly taught by the victim had the following characteristics:

  • 92 per cent were male
  • 38 per cent were in grades 1–3
  • 76 per cent had a history of violence

The study also noted that societal factors like consequence-free access to social media and lowered expectations regarding acceptable behaviour have led to increased parent aggression.

“Expectations for parents are neither clear nor well understood,” the report states.

The study found that weapons were used in 12.4 per cent of the cases of violence or bullying. Of the 88 respondents who reported the use of a weapon, six instances involved a gun and four involved a knife.

The survey responses show that two-thirds to three-quarters of perpetrators of violence or bullying are repeat offenders, and that current practices for dealing with violence or bullying do not prevent repetition.

“It is clear that it is time to examine practices in schools to determine what actions tacitly sanction or create repeated incidents,” the report states.

Despite the presence of legislation and policy aimed at ensuring that schools are welcoming and safe, respondents reported that policy was not followed more than half the time. Only 58 per cent of the respondents who reported an incident said that it was handled to their satisfaction.

Negative consequences

A high percentage of respondents (90 per cent) reported experiencing emotional effects such as stress, frustration and anxiety, while 84 per cent reported career-related effects such as loss of job satisfaction, lower morale and reduced teaching effectiveness. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of respondents reported physical effects like sleep disturbance, fatigue and headaches. Physical injuries were reported in 25 per cent of the incidents of violence.

The study’s report includes 11 recommendations that touch on better understanding existing policies, raising awareness, undertaking additional training and engaging in further study.


“This is a complicated problem. There is no one-size fits all solution,” said ATA staff officer Lisa Everitt, who sat on the committee that was formed to research aggression in Alberta schools.

The study is a first step and will help guide the creation of policy and advocacy aimed at increasing safety, said ATA president Jason Schilling.

“Safety in schools has always been a priority, and schools are generally safe,” Schilling said. “Traditionally, the focus has been on the safety of students, but this study shows the need to expand safety concerns to include teachers. ❚


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