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Three-quarters of Ottawa public school staff received reports of bullying this school year, survey finds

Teachers and educators say students feel safe in Ottawa's public schools, but a new survey finds a majority of educators received reports of student bullying during a four-week period this school year.

The 2023 Educator School Climate Survey by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board also found nearly one third of educators reported that sexual harassment or discrimination was brought to their attention by students.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board conducted the climate survey between April 3 and 28, asking principals, vice-principals, school-based educators and support staff in all elementary, secondary and adult schools to fill out a voluntary and anonymous survey.

The results, published this week by the school board, shows 77 per cent of educators reported that bullying was brought to their attention in the previous four weeks. Thirty-five per cent of educators said they received reports of discrimination, while 32 per cent of Grade 7 to 12 educators reported sexual harassment was brought to their attention.

The board says bullying was most frequently reported to educators of students in Grades 4 to 8, while student sexual harassment was reported more frequently to educators of students in Grades 7 and 8.

The survey found 71 per cent of educators reported that students feel safe at school.

According to the survey, 90 per cent of educators felt the school was accepting of diversity, and 82 per cent of staff felt "quite positively" about the school environment.

School discipline was rated the least favourable for educators, with only 58 per cent agreeing that school discipline was adequate.

Over 2,100 school-based educators participated in the survey, representing 35 per cent of the staff in Ottawa's public schools. The Educator Climate Survey is conducted every two years.

Parent/caregiver survey

A separate survey for parents and caregivers of students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board found 38 per cent reported their child experienced bullying at school, while 14 per cent said their child suffered from discrimination.

Three per cent of parents/caregivers of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported their child experienced sexual harassment at school.

The sense of safety was greater for students in Kindergarten to Grade 6, than students in Grades 7 to 12, according to the OCDSB.

The survey found 79 per cent of parents and caregivers reported their child feels safe at school, with the sense of safety greater for students in Kindergarten to Grade 6.

Over 8,700 parents, guardians and caregivers completed the survey between March 1 and 24.

Pamela Meadows walking with her son Justice in Ottawa. (Jackie Perez/CTV News Ottawa)

The school year is coming to a close and according to Pamela Meadows, it’s been a positive year for her son Justice.

“It's been a great first school year and I think the teachers have done a good job at making themselves a safe person to go to if there are problems," Meadows said.

She's not the only one who feels that way, with the survey showing 78 per cent of parents and caregivers who responded indicating their children feel safe at school.

Meadows says she took the survey and one of the questions was about reports of bullying.

"I said low numbers because as far as I talked to him, there hasn't been personally a lot of issues," she said.  

Shawn Lehman is the superintendent of instruction at the OCDSB. He says they aren’t surprised by the numbers they’re seeing from educators. However, the numbers are too high.

"We do take that seriously. From a staff perspective, we are encouraged that our students are comfortable to report. It is our duty to follow up," Lehman said.

Justice Memmott says they already have a way to address bullying at his school.

"They have a bully box where you can put a note in it if you can't get a teacher," he said.  

Meadows says she's not surprised by the results since teachers are seeing it every day. However, she’s bracing for the day her child may have to confront bullying.

"We're certainly talking about bullying and things at home and, hopefully, he'll be comfortable stepping up and telling a teacher," she said.  

The student survey in 2022 found 28 per cent of students reported being bullied in the previous four weeks and 34 per cent had witnessed others being bullied.  Ten per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 had experienced sexual harassment during the previous four weeks.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says the surveys help the board understand how school communities are doing, "so that necessary improvements can be made to the learning environment."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jackie Perez Top Stories


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