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TORONTO STAR

Violence in Ontario schools prompts call for more front-line staff

Jun 24, 2017 10:42:00 PM

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Their kids have witnessed “vulgar” verbal attacks, seen teachers chased down the hall, even assaulted, and say too-frequent lockdowns at their elementary school have made students anxious.

A group of Oshawa parents says the situation has grown so out of hand at Beau Valley Public School that their children sometimes don’t want to go to class. And they are calling on the Durham public board and province for changes to help curb such disturbing incidents across all boards — and better support students with special needs who need more support workers with them in class.

“There are many parents that feel the same as I do,” said Erin MacCormack, a mother of two daughters. “I have talked to many parents from different cities, and their stories are all shocking and sad. Kids are struggling in today’s classrooms. They see kids hitting other kids, kids hitting teaching staff, (protective gear) on staff, classrooms destroyed.

“They are fearful when these things are happening.”

It’s an issue the elementary teachers’ union is lobbying the government to address — arguing its members are twice as likely as secondary school teachers to take time off because of workplace violence, noting that rate in general is higher for education workers than for other professions.

Some relief is on the way. Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in an interview the province has added $219 million to a local priorities fund for boards across the province to hire 875 teachers and 1,600 education workers to help address the problem.

In the Durham public board, that means 27 new educational assistants and 13 full-time elementary and five secondary special education teachers, said superintendent John Legere.

He also said the board regularly reviews staffing levels, and “we intend to provide some additional support” to Beau Valley, in terms of special education staff.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is urging the government to fund more staff this fall — from educational assistants to social workers to counsellors to psychologists — as well as implement better training and reporting procedures.

President Sam Hammond acknowledged the government has made “some progress on these issues, (but) there is much more work to be done . . . We’re talking about the need for more services to address children’s mental health, as well as the need to ensure that funding for special needs is also allocated to front-line support services to help ensure the success and well being of every student.”

Hunter said the province is also working with the unions and the Ministry of Labour to ensure health and safety rules are being followed, incidents properly reported and training improved. Enforcement teams will visit every board starting this fall, she added.

“Everyone who is under the roof of a school needs to feel safe and included in their work environment, and students also need to be safe,” Hunter said, adding that changes will be made so that all staff have the information they need about the students in their classroom, which doesn’t happen consistently across the province.

“It’s important if there are certain sensitivities or certain triggers that that information is shared so that our students can be supported.”

In Durham Region, local ETFO president David Mastin heard so many concerns that last fall, the union conducted a survey to find out what exactly was going on.

“The worst case this year was a member whose head was smashed against a desk, and she was off for several months,” he said. When she returned to work, it was to the same situation, with no extra help.

The survey of his 2,500 members — of which 791 responded — found that more than three-quarters feel unsafe sometimes or always, and almost one-quarter had filed violent incident claim forms. Some 60 per cent said they were the victims of violence but had not officially reported it.

“It is a major part of this conversation — the education perspective, the teacher perspective. We talked about kids witnessing this day in and day out,” said Mastin. “It’s a gender issue, too — I have significant concerns about students who are going home after witnessing violence against women.”

One special education teacher in the Toronto board said he’s happy with ministry initiatives on youth mental health, but what’s needed is early intervention. Integrating students with behavioural issues into mainstream classes is the goal, he said, but they must be properly supported or their learning, and that of their classmates, suffers.

As it has at Beau Valley, said Oshawa mom Tanya MacLeod, who describes her two daughters as anxious or sometimes fearful to go to school.

“The school is in distress,” she wrote to officials last fall in her unsuccessful pitch for extra staff. “I do feel the teachers are doing all they can but do not have the appropriate support to deal with these situations . . . Also, how can learning exist when children’s routines are constantly disrupted and learning is sidelined?”

Float in Montreal Fête nationale parade sparks outrage

Jun 24, 2017 7:21:35 PM

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A Fête nationale parade Saturday afternoon in Montreal has lit up the Internet for the wrong reasons, with more than 200,000 views of a clip showing a float pushed by four Black men followed by an all-white chorus that has been criticized as racist.

The clip, filmed and posted on Facebook by a bystander, shows singer Annie Villeneuve performing a version of “Gens du pays,” a song often sung on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, on a float followed by a choral group passing the corner of Boucher and Saint-Denis Sts. The people in the chorus appeared to be white and dressed in white clothes, while the four Black men pushing the float were dressed in beige outfits.

“I’m not sure the organizers of the parade understand the concept of diversity,” wrote Félix Brouillet, the bystander who shot the video. It has been shared at least 5,000 times in three hours.

The parade was intended to depict fifteen scenes from the history of the province, and the float in the video was based around the founding of Fort Ville-Marie, which later became Montreal, in 1642.

“It’s fine to tell the history of Quebec, but the subtext given off by the scene and the context in which it put its participants makes no sense,” Brouillet told La Presse.

Montreal’s Fête nationale organizing committee posted its own video of the float on its Facebook page, which was deluged with outraged comments.

Rachelle Houde Simard commented, criticizing the choice to put four Black men in “slave outfits” and called the float “disgusting.”

Administrators of the facebook page later posted, by way of clarification, that all of the parade’s floats were being pushed by members of a Montreal school’s sports team. The video was later deleted.

La Presse was unable to reach the organizers by press time.

The Leafs get bigger on second day of NHL draft

Jun 24, 2017 5:47:34 PM

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CHICAGO—Maple Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter ran his third draft and if there was a theme, it was “a big, strong guy.” The Leafs took two six-foot-six defenceman on Saturday — and nobody under six-feet tall — on the second and final day of the 2017 NHL draft.

Counting Timothy Liljegren, chosen in Friday’s first round, the Leafs took four defencemen with their seven picks.

“We took who we thought was the best player at the moment. It seemed like there was more defence in the draft this year,” Hunter said. “We filled some holes. Now it’s time for our development department to take over and help make these young men better.”

Here’s how Saturday’s picks size up and what Hunter likes about them.

Eemeli Rasanen

Defenceman

Second round, 59th overall

Hometown: Joensuu, Finland

Vitals: 6-foot-6, 214 pounds

Shoots: Right

Junior: Kingston (OHL)

Stats: GP 66 | G 6 | A 33

The skinny: Tries to model his game after Rasmus Ristolainen ... Has represented Finland in Under-18s, and Under-17s. Offensively minded, and uses his impressive size well and is tough in the corners.

Hunter says: “A big, strong guy. He needs to develop his body. He’s a little inconsistent because his legs don’t carry his body. He’s got a great shot. Huge upside on his skill level.”

Ian Scott

Goaltender

Fourth round, 110th overall

Hometown: Calgary

Vitals: 6-foot-3, 169 pounds

Junior: Prince Albert (WHL)

Stats: 12-31-0 | GAA 3.24 | Save % .892

The skinny: Models himself after Carey Price. ... Represented Canada at the world under-18s, and won gold for Canada White at the world under-17s.

Hunter says: “Played on not a great team, so his stats aren’t as good as it should be. His technique, and his size and his quickness side-to-side is very good.”

Vladislav Kara

Left winger

Fourth round, 124th overall

Hometown: Salekhard, Russia

Vitals: 6-foot-1, 187 pounds

Shoots: Left

Junior: Irbis Kazan (MHL)

Stats: GP 31 | G 11 | A 9

The skinny: Smooth skater. The only overage player taken by the Leafs.

Hunter says: “A big, strong winger who can play a two-way game and can skate, handle pucks and drive the net.”

Fedor Gordeev

Defenceman

Fifth round, 141st overall

Hometown: Omsk, Russia

Vitals: 6-foot-6, 211 pounds

Shoots: Left

Junior: Flint (OHL)

Stats: GP 62 | G 3 | A 10

The skinny: Family moved to Etobicoke from Russia to find a better life when he was eight. Has that combination of size, speed and skill scouts drool for.

Hunter says: “A big, strong defenceman who can dunk a ball. He’s got a bomb. He can shoot a puck. Got skill, just needs to calm down and make better plays consistently on the ice.”

Ryan McGregor

Centre, left winger

Sixth round, 172nd overall

Hometown: Burlington

Vitals: 6-feet, 159 pounds

Shoots: Left

Junior: Sarnia (OHL)

Stats: GP 65 | G 14 | A 23

The skinny: Wendel Clark is his hockey hero and he admires Johnny Gaudreau.

Hunter says: “He needs strength. He’s got hockey sense, he’s got skill. Didn’t have a great year last year. I believe he’s got some upside and will take off next year.”

Ryan O’Connell

Defenceman

Seventh round, 203rd overall

Hometown: Gloucester, Ont.

Vitals: 6-foot-1, 170 pounds

Shoots: Left

Junior: St. Andrews College (OHSL)

Stats: GP 47 | G 6 | A 27

The skinny: Bound for the Penticton Vees of the BC Tier II league next year and has committed Boston University for 2018-19.

Hunter says: “Right out of our backyard. A good program in BU and this kid has a good upside. We’ll be patient with him and watch his development.”

CP24 News

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