Rob Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario of the Near North Teacher’s Local, fears the government is not doing enough to stop violence in our schools / Stock photoDavid Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province is banning cellphones and vaping at schools come September, but Rob Hammond fears violence will continue to erupt within those hallowed halls.

Stephen Lecce’s announcement this past April was “a distraction, a tactic to not really address the real issues,” Hammond said of the Ministry of Education’s announcement. Hammond is the President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario of the Near North Teacher’s Local.

He noted that most schools already have strict rules concerning cell phone use within the district and calling for a ban amounted to no more than “a beautiful soundbite to make themselves look like they’re actually doing something in education.”

See: School board has ‘no plans’ to ban phones from classrooms

With the ban, Hammond wondered who would enforce the rules? “Parents are still going to send them to school with them,” he said, “and we need support from the parents. Do kids really need to have a cell phone at school? I mean, generations grew up without cell phones.”

Violence within the classrooms and halls should be the real priority, Hammond said, not announcements on phone bans. He explained that the province is continuing to draft Policy / Program Memorandum 128 – aka PM 128 – which outlines a province wide code of conduct for every Ontario school.

Hammond wants to ensure the province consults with unions so that PM 128 adequately “addresses behaviour, consequences and safety” for both teachers and students.

See: School violence remains a troubling issue, union president warns

“Unacceptable behaviours in our school,” is the real problem, Hammond said. “Physical violence, pushing shoving, profanity. The disrespectful behaviour that shows a disregard of a teacher or other supervising adults’ position.”

There are no additional supports for students with behavioural problems, and PM 128 doesn’t address “the most serious issues that we have, which is violence in the schools.”

See: LETTER: Restoring respect and responsibility in Ontario’s education system

He wants PM 128 to outline “what responsibility is going to be placed on the kids?” and what the code of conduct is going to look like within these schools. “Kids under grade three cannot be suspended,” he said as example, some “unmanageable at this point in time, so how do you deal with those children?”

“What are the reasonable consequences for this behaviour, especially the most violent behaviour?”

That’s what Hammond wants the province to answer, and time’s running out, because September is just around the corner.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 15, 2024 at 16:24

This item reprinted with permission from   North Bay, Ontario
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