Saturday, January 12, 2008

School Safety - Part 3

Once more, I have included in bold print the parts that seem particularly pertinent to teachers. As well, the politically expedient comments of Gerry Connelly, the Director of Education for the TDSB, have been bolded. One fact the article fails to make clear is that any criticism of your employer can be grounds for dismissal, undoubtedly another reason for the culture of fear and concealment endemic in education.

Violent incidents hushed up, union says
January 12, 2008

Toronto's high-school teachers' union confirmed yesterday that educators are told by administrators to keep safety issues quiet for fear of damaging their schools' reputations.

Simultaneously, principals moved to tackle the hundreds of unreported violent assaults taking place on school grounds in the wake of a damning report on school safety.

Doug Jolliffe, president of the Toronto district of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said union members are reluctant to speak out about violence because they are rarely protected by their superiors.

A culture of fear permeates the TDSB, Mr. Jolliffe said, echoing the conclusion drawn by criminal lawyer Julian Falconer, who led a high-profile investigation into the issue.

His panel heard from employees of the Toronto District School Board, who said that revealing violent incidents in schools, including robberies and sexual assaults, would be "career-limiting" because it would reflect negatively on the board.

Mr. Falconer was asked to report on school safety after 15-year-old Jordan Manners was shot to death at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in May.

The panel's final report, made public this week, describes the country's largest school board as rife with violent attacks swept under the rug.

"The principal's argument would be if this stuff gets out, it reflects badly on the school," Mr. Jolliffe said. "If it reflects badly on the school, then we'll have fewer students here. If we have fewer students, then we're going to lose jobs here."

The union chief added: "I don't agree with that, but that's what they say to people."
Meanwhile, principals met with the TDSB's director of education, Gerry Connelly, to discuss the report. Principals were asked to speak with staff, students and parents about what can be done to rectify the problem.

"One of my main priorities is to ensure that we have a culture of trust and openness," Ms. Connelly said.

"Fear of reprisal ... was most unfortunate."

Unfortunate, but very real, Mr. Jolliffe said.

"We can't afford to do that any more. We need to figure out what we're going to do about it," he said. "We need to make our schools safer."

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