ETFO’s Multi-Year Strategy to Address Violence in Schools

Since 2017, ETFO has been engaged in ETFO’s Multi-Year Strategy to Address Violence in Schools. The strategy has four components: internal, external, public partnerships, and lobbying. Action items have been organized within six interrelated areas:

  • Communication;
  • Capacity building;
  • Training and Resources;
  • Multi-Media Resources;
  • Lobbying; and
  • Building Better Schools.

Elements of the strategy have been built into work at ETFO, across the service areas. The focus on the strategy led, in part, to the creation of a new Health and Safety Service Area and hiring of staff devoted to health and safety.

logo for ETFO Action on Violence

History of the Multi-Year Strategy

Some of what has been done as a part of the multi-year strategy:

  • October 2016: ETFO Provincial Executive approved a comprehensive multi-year strategy to address violence in public elementary schools.
  • January 2017: ETFO’s holds a media conference to draw attention to concerns about violence in schools.
  • April 2017: The detailed strategy was developed by a 17-member team, with respect to 18 motions. Action items were organized within six interrelated areas.
  • August 2017: A video is released to members, ETFO Takes Action on Violence in Schools, describing the importance of reporting violent incidents.
  • September 2017: ETFO’s Annual Health and Safety Conference focused on Violence in Schools.
  • October 2017: Ministry of Labour conducts an enforcement initiative on workplace violence in school boards, responding to concerns raised at the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety (PWGHS).
  • October 2017: A second video is released on risk assessments and safety plans.
  • October/November 2017: ETFO conducted an All-Member Violence Survey. Results are shared in a media conference.
  • January 2018: The third video is released on what steps to take in the event of a workplace injury or illness due to violence.
  • March 2018: Workplace Violence in School Boards: A guide to the law was released by the Ministry of Labour. Development of the guide was spearheaded by ETFO representatives on the PWGHS.
  • March/April 2018: ETFO’s Action on Violence in Schools member resources were introduced. The glossary, brochure, poster, and wallet card were designed to raise awareness of members’ health and safety rights, reporting responsibilities, and the actions being taken by ETFO.
  • April 2018: The Ministry of Education provides funding to boards to create online reporting tools for violent incidents, which will aggregate information to be shared with Joint Health and Safety Committees. The proposal comes from advocacy at the PWGHS. ETFO holds boards to account with a letter of agreement in bargaining to comply with the requirement, and later files a grievance to compel compliance.
  • December 2018: Results of the Ministry of Labour’s workplace initiative are shared with presidents to be used in advocacy at the board level.
  • June 2019: ETFO promotes an MOL survey gauging level of awareness of the Workplace Violence in School Boards
  • September 2019: A workshop was offered to local leaders – Writing Effective Safety Plans. This was offered again in 2021.
  • September 2019: ETFO writes to the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education, bringing attention to the study Facing the Facts: The Escalating Crisis of Violence Against Elementary School Educators in Ontario from the University of Ottawa.
  • December 2-3, 2019: ETFO holds ETFO’s Workplace Violence Symposium, bringing together stakeholders, children’s advocates, government representatives, and education unions to discuss the issue of violence in schools.
  • December 2020: A conference for Women Addressing Gender-Based Workplace Violence was held for 21 participants. To expand the number of members who can participate, the conference was run twice more in December 2021 and January 2023.
  • February 2021: ETFO Provincial Executive extended the strategy to 2023.
  • September 2022: A workshop was offered to local leaders – Violence in the Classroom and WSIB Claims.
  • January 2023: A Stewards’ Mailing went out with a special letter from the President, informing members of the upcoming 2023 All-Member Violence Survey, and sharing a poster of work refusal information to be posted in the worksite and a bookmark with work refusal basics for all members.
  • April/May 2023: Reports from the MOL’s compliance initiative on violence in schools are shared at regional conferences around the province, to arm local health and safety representatives to advocate at their Joint Health and Safety Committees.
  • January 2023: An episode of Elementary, ETFO’s podcast, is devoted to the issue of violence in schools, including interviews with a prominent researcher and an ETFO member.
  • February/March 2023: ETFO conducted a second All-Member Violence Survey. Additionally, seven focus group discussions were held on ETFO members’ experiences of violence in the workplace.
  • April 2023: Focus groups were identified through the violence survey and shared their experiences of workplace violence. Focus groups highlighted the stories of groups more likely to experience workplace violence, including teachers and education workers in kindergarten, ETFO members working with students with exceptional learning needs, and racialized members.
  • March 2023: Staying Healthy and Safe in Special Education was the Health and Safety Special Topics Conference for 2023. Writing effective safety plans, sharing best practices, along with a keynote speaker on self-regulation all worked to address safety concerns and underlying causes of violence in some school settings.
  • May 2023: ETFO held a media event sharing the results of ETFO’s 2023 All-Member Violence Survey and promoted the results provincially and locally.
  • May 2023: Representative Council participated in small group, facilitated discussions. Local leaders shared information about violence in schools at their boards, and input and idea were gathered.
  • June 2023: ETFO Provincial Executive extended the strategy to 2026.

The Current Phase of the Multi-Year Strategy

The current phase of ETFO’s Multi-Year Strategy to Address Violence in Schools will be informed by the results of the All-Member Violence Survey, the outcome and analysis of seven focus groups with ETFO members who discussed their experiences with workplace violence, and the input from the May 2023 Representative Council small-group facilitated discussions.

The work of the strategy in this phase will be across six areas of action:

  1. Communications
    1. Send enewsletter information of workplace violence and reminders timed to important times of year (e.g., risk assessments, safety plans, domestic violence).
    2. Post information through social media to raise awareness of the issue among members and the wider public.
    3. Maintain resources and updates at
    4. Make important resources available to local leaders and health and safety representatives at ETFO Secure.
    5. Continue status reports to ETFO leadership, both local and provincial.
  2. Capacity Building
    1. Raise violence issues at bargaining.
    2. Monitor and share reports from Ministry of Labour compliance initiatives, complaints, and work refusals.
    3. Work alongside education allies to bring health and safety concerns to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour at the Provincial Working Group on Health and Safety.
    4. Work with other service areas to identify and capitalize on the intersection between their work and concerns about workplace violence.
  3. Training and Resources
    1. Provide training for local leaders and health and safety representatives to build an awareness of how to advocate for health and safety improvements through Joint Health and Safety Committees at the Annual Health and Safety Representatives Conferences, Regional Health and Safety Training, Virtual Academy, and other programs.
    2. Update existing resources as needed, reflecting changes to legislation and practices.
    3. Include workshops on violence in Health and Safety Training (WP), and programs from other service areas, when appropriate.
    4. Develop training for members to build awareness of health and safety rights.
  4. Multi-Media Resources
    1. Maintain and update existing resources (e.g.,
    2. Publish articles relating to workplace violence in Voice Magazine.
    3. Develop videos to support programing and inform members about ways in which they can keep themselves safe from violence.
  5. Lobbying
    1. Continue to raise awareness and advocate for improvements at the PWGHS.
    2. Lobby the Ministry of Labour to share information, to improve protections under the law, and to enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
    3. Lobby the Ministry of Education to meet the needs of students who are struggling, through better funding, staffing, and community resources.
    4. Build relationships with organizations with shared concerns and interests.
  6. Building Better Schools
    1. Continue to use the Building Better Schools campaign to advocate for improvements to Ontario’s public elementary schools.

Coming Up in 2023-2024:

  • Telephone Town Hall: This fall a telephone town hall will give all members the opportunity to find out more about the results of the 2023 All-Member Violence Survey, and hear legal advice/information on how members can assert their legal right to engage in work refusal when encountering violence in the workplace.
  • Work Refusal Checklist: A checklist designed to help members identify when their workplace may be unsafe and work refusal could be appropriate, will be released this fall. The checklist will help members make their decision regarding a work refusal and help them articulate the health and safety protections that must be in place to address workplace violence.
  • Violence in Schools Writing Team: The writing team will develop a program and resource designed to increase members’ knowledge of health and safety protections in the law specific to harassment and violence.
  • Violence in Schools Facilitator Training: Facilitator training will be open to one member from each school board. The learning materials created by the writing team will be reviewed and refined so that the training can be delivered to all interested members in all locals in the 2024-2025 year, with a goal of reaching a member from every school.
  • Video resources Addressing Violence in Schools: Videos will be created that demonstrate processes that are available to members to address workplace violence (e.g., a mock work refusal due to violence, bringing concerns to the Joint Health and Safety Committee, reporting and using the resulting data, etc.)
  • ETFO Fall Leadership Conference – Addressing Violence in Schools: Reviewing the results of ETFO’s 2023 All-Member Violence Survey and outcomes of the MOL’s Workplace Violence Compliance Initiative. Participants will develop local action plans to use this information in their advocacy efforts at the board level.
  • Programs/Other Service Areas: Workshops on violence in schools are embedded into all Health and Safety Services programs, as well as in workshop/conference opportunities offered by other ETFO service areas (e.g., New Presidents’ Training).