Teachers union: 'We should all be united in this campaign.'
KSB ponders teachers' anti-violence campaign
The Northern Quebec Teaching Association wanted to set aside Feb. 15, the day after Valentines Day, for a day of reflection on school violence in Nunavik, but it's not clear if the Kativik School Board will participate.
This Friday, the union representing 1,400 teachers and support staff in Nunavik and the Cree Eeyou Istchee territory will launch a three-year campaign against school violence with the co-operation of the Cree School Board.
But the date for the Nunavik campaign launch was postponed until after Feb. 15. Union president Patrick D'Astous said he wants to wait and see if the Kativik School Board will work with the union to support the campaign against violence.
"I think it's a good idea to have a special day but let us take the time to review it first," the school board's executive director Annie Grenier said in a letter.
The motivation for the campaign comes directly from teachers' union members who said in a year-end survey that curbing school violence should be their union's top priority, D'Astous said.
"We should all be united in this campaign. There's no boss, no employees," D'Astous said.
In recent years, Nunavik has experienced repeated episodes of violence against its students and teachers within its 16 schools. The worst episodes included the shooting of a female teacher in Salluit in 2005 and the beating of a school principal in Kangiqsujuaq that same year.
In 2006, student vandals ransacked the Iguarsivik School in Purvirnituq, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
As well, countless episodes of vandalism, harassment and bullying in school classrooms and playgrounds have gone largely unreported.
Since 2005, a joint health and safety committee with representatives from the union and the KSB has met to discuss how to improve conditions in schools.
The school board has adopted a "peace and responsive school" code and upped security within its schools through video surveillance, security entrance cards for use by staff after hours and hallway monitors.
But D'Astous said union leaders and members see a need to step up action on a personal level.
"We don't want people to let their guard down," he said. "It's really about people, what do we do depending on the situation."
The KSB has told D'Astous it wants to look at the main document to be used in the anti-violence campaign – a handbook on how to deal with violence, which was prepared by Quebec's largest union, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, and the Laval university's Centre de recherche et d'intervention sur la réussite scolaire for research on education.
The 20-page handbook looks at physical, psychological and sexual harassment, intimidation, cyberbullying via the internet and how to take action against violence.
The handbook encourages schools to develop concrete tools to combat violence, such as codes of conduct and emergency plans.
"First, it recommends a discussion about what violence is because for teachers it's not necessarily the same thing as for students," D'Astous said. "When everyone agrees, you can start drawing up a conduct code for behaviour."
In conjunction with the campaign, the union also plans to distribute posters to schools, which declare "this is a violence-free zone."
D'Astous hopes the KSB supports its plan to focus on school violence because this would mean Quebec's two most northerly school boards would be the first in Quebec to respond strongly to the unions' fight against violence in the workplace.
The Cree school board was quick to embrace the anti-violence campaign because of a wave of vandalism against teachers' residences in Misstissini.
The Cree magazine, The Nation, reports that on Feb. 15 elders planned to visit Cree schools to teach about respect and the importance of good communication to lessen violence in the schools.
A similar event will also be held in Cree territory at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year to remind students how they should behave towards each other.