Victor Espinoza (left) and Randy Anderson-Fennell (right) are calling for a review of how staff report student aggression in Delta schools. (James Smith photo)

Delta trustee candidates call for review on how student aggression is reported

Randy Anderson-Fennell and Victor Espinoza say schools need to track all violent incidents

School trustee candidates Randy Anderson-Fennell and Victor Espinoza are proposing a review of reporting mechanisms for violent incidents in schools after finding statistics from the district and support staff painted “vastly different pictures.”

According to a press release, Kids Matter candidate Anderson-Fennell filed a Freedom of Information request with the Delta School District in July, asking for statistics on student aggression and violence for the 2017-2018 school year.

The district replied in September, he said, and provided a document that detailed 13 incidents across the district. These incidents were only ones requiring first aid, medical attention or lost time.

However, numbers on the ground look quite different, Anderson-Fennell said.

Anderson-Fennell worked with Patti Price, president of CUPE Local 1091, to find out how often support staff report claims of student aggression and violence. Support staff, such as education assistants, are part of CUPE Local 1091 and are encouraged to report all incidents and near misses to the district or WorkSafe, Price explained.

Numbers from CUPE union representatives show education assistants reported 30 incidents or near misses at five Delta schools since classes started this September. A sixth school reported 99 incidents during the 2017-2018 school year.

The difference between the two datasets is a concern for Anderson-Fennell, himself a support staffer in the Surrey School District.

“A student behaving aggressively could escalate to actual physical violence, so we need to know about all these incidents even if no one received medical attention or missed work,” Anderson-Fennell said in a press release.

He argued that having a better understanding of how often support staff — and teachers — are dealing with violent or aggressive students would go a long way to creating a safe school environment. “A problem well stated is a problem half solved,” he said.

Anderson-Fennell and Espinoza, both running for trustee with the Kids Matter slate, are calling for a review on reporting mechanisms for these kinds of incidents.

“We need to ensure all stakeholders are using the same data to inform the decisions they make,” Espinoza, a teacher for over 20 years in the Richmond School District, said in the release.

Anderson-Fennell agreed.

“We need to rectify the data we’re collecting,” he said. “This is particularly relevant, given the new provincial negotiating framework.”

A provincial negotiating framework was endorsed by support unions and the provincial government in September, with the intent of improving services for people and ensuring fair compensation for staff. The framework includes a commitment by both groups to work together to minimize or eliminate the risk of violence in the workplace.

Although Anderson-Fennell and Espinoza’s release didn’t include a plan for what a new violent incident reporting mechanism might look like, Anderson-Fennell said the school board has done a good job of introducing other government mandates, like the new education curriculum, in the past. He said a new reporting mechanism could be developed in the “same incisive fashion.”

The civic election will take place on Oct. 20, with advance voting on Oct. 11.

SEE ALSO: 43 candidates running in Delta civic election



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

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