Strong Leadership, Community Commitment Required to Keep School Violence in Check - AG

      Strong Leadership, Community Commitment Required to Keep School Violence in Check - AG

For release June 11 – It will take strong leadership and community commitment to ensure safe learning environments in Nova Scotia schools after years of pervasive school violence, Nova Scotia’s Auditor General says in a new report.

To get started, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development needs a provincewide strategy to address violence in schools.

Reported incidents of school violence in schools throughout Nova Scotia have increased 60% over the past seven years (up from 17,000 to 26,000 since 2017), with half in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE).

School violence has severe and lasting consequences on the mental health, well-being, and education of children. Research shows learning and health outcomes are lower for children who experience school violence.

The new audit, which examined the incidents of violence in schools, reveals current policies have significant weaknesses to address the increasing school violence. 

“Training and prevention have not kept pace with the rising number of violent incidents in public schools, resulting in educators who feel unprepared to deal with it,” says Kim Adair.

Educators, including teachers and teacher assistants, need a healthy and safe workplace. They cite several possibilities for the sharp rise in violence, including increasingly diverse and complex student needs.

The audit also points out parents and guardians play an essential role in the community commitment to ensure safe learning environments.

The situation now requires a more focused effort that is not evident in the current Code of Conduct policy.

“There’s no cohesive approach to preventing and addressing violence in schools and it shows – right from the weaknesses in the School Code of Conduct all the way to the lack of action on reported incidents.”

The audit exposed weaknesses with the reliability and accuracy of school violence data, which means the Department doesn’t know the full extent of violence in Nova Scotia’s schools. That unreliability is further compounded by educators who say they’re not always reporting incidents.

As part of the audit, our team visited more than half a dozen schools – chosen for their locations, school sizes, and levels of violence – and interviewed dozens of staff, including principals, teachers, and teacher assistants.

In addition to conducting a provincewide survey of all educators in Nova Scotia, the Auditor General and her team performed more detailed work at the HRCE and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP).

As a result of the audit, the Auditor General makes five recommendations, including following through on the department’s update to the Provincial School Code of Conduct policy, and the adoption of an integrated provincewide strategy in consultation with educators to address violence in schools.

“It’s as much an Occupational Health and Safety issue for educators as it is a commitment to improve the future of the province,” says Adair.