The government urged crackdown on non-physical abuse of teachers because of their sexuality, gender, ethnicity and disability

The government has been urged to crack down on non-physical abuse of teachers as ASTI delegates revealed they have been the target of harassment and online attacks because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity and disability. At the ASTI Annual Conference in Cork, a motion from the Dublin North West branch on safety at work was unanimously approved. The union has now sought a full review of the Department of Education’s guidelines to ensure the protection of teachers under health and safety legislation.

Education Department officials have also been asked to acknowledge that not all assaults are physical and that it is “abominable” for teachers to have to use their own sick leave to recover from such instances of abuse.

The motion was brought by Daniel Howard of ASTI’s Dublin North West office.

“I come here today as an openly gay teacher who knows what it’s like to suffer homophobic abuse,” he said.

Mr Howard said some teachers – he said young teachers in particular – have been targeted because of their ethnicity, gender, sexuality and even disability.

He added that many young teachers do not report such abuse, fearing it could affect their future careers or employment status.

He claimed in some cases teachers reported the abuse but received only lukewarm support from school leaders.

In one case, a young teacher raised concerns with school management that she was the target of disruptive online sexual harassment from some of her students.

“(But) management didn’t seem willing to do anything about it.

“Ireland is now the outlier in Europe in recognizing that attacks cannot be physical.

“Do we need to see Ireland being dragged kicking and screaming to detect non-physical attacks?”

He said it was “abhorrent” that teachers who have been targeted for such non-physical attacks and online harassment have to call on their own sick leave when they need time and space to recover.

Mr Howard said teachers have a right to expect protection from such bullying, abusive behavior and online harassment.

In this regard, developments like Coco’s Law have been hugely important in holding people accountable for their online behavior.
ASTI Equality Committee Chair Philip Synnott recognized Mr Howard’s contribution and urged the conference to support the motion.

It was accepted unanimously.
ASTI Secretary General Kieran Christie said the year 2022 had seen deeply disturbing instances of violence outside of schools, particularly violence against women and minority groups.
“This year has been marked, dare I say it, by the horrors associated with violence in society and particularly violence against women and members of the LGBT+ community,” he said.
“Let’s be clear – violence in all its forms and particularly against people because of their gender or sexual orientation is a scourge that needs to be addressed.
“I am aware that I am general secretary of a union that represents a largely feminised profession.
“For our part, we have been urging the Department of Education for some time to revise and improve the Assault Leave School Circular to bring it up to date and fit for purpose.
“We will not waive this because everyone has the right to work in a safe environment and when problems arise, victims should be treated with due care and respect.”

The ASTI official also warned that teachers are now under unprecedented stress.

“Many (teachers) feel they are being very disenfranchised in a career they have worked so hard to build.

“In teaching, (a) enormous professional stress crisis has developed that needs to be addressed.”

Dublin South ASTI delegate Ruth Coppinger pointed out that teachers are now the second biggest sufferers of Covid-19, after healthcare workers.

She said the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic were easily noticeable among teachers, both through “burnout and fatigue”.

“For the past two years, schools have been freezing (from open windows and poor ventilation) – it’s been an absolute nightmare.”

Michael McGrath, member of the Dungarvan ASTI branch, said: “Everyone is entitled to a healthy and safe workplace.”

He urged members to push for the deployment of HEPA filters in schools – devices that have played a key role in protecting against Covid-19 since 2020 but also offer other protective benefits such as reducing airborne irritants.

Some delegates complained that while they had seen photos of HEPA filters, they had not seen one installed in their school. The government urged crackdown on non-physical abuse of teachers because of their sexuality, gender, ethnicity and disability

Fry Electronics Team

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