Violence in the Workplace
Violence in the workplace is an issue of grave concern for employees and employers alike. As in other workplaces, school employees are also the victims of violence in the workplace. During the course of their work, school staff may be at risk from violence in the form of verbal abuse, threats, assaults or other forms of intimidation. This behaviour may come from pupils, parents, guardians, other members of staff, members of the B.O.M., D.E.S. inspectors, visitors or intruders.
The Dept. of Education and Science is anxious that every effort would be made to create and maintain a culture in schools where acts of violence are not tolerated and where incidents, when they do occur, are effectively and speedily dealt with.
(1)B.O.M.’s duty to provide a safe system of work
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act became operative on 1st November 1989. It requires employers to ensure the safety and health of their employees. It requires employers to draw up and continuously update a Safety Statement:
*Identifying the Hazards
*Assessing the risks to health and safety and
*Putting in place appropriate safeguards.
Violence should be considered a potential hazard and assessed accordingly and where there is a risk to health and safety from violence, appropriate safeguards must be put in place. There should be consultation with those at risk concerning the measures to be taken and monitoring their effectiveness. Information should be given to staff on protection and preventive measures which are essential.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work(General Applications) Regulations 1993 provides that the Health and Safety Authority must be notified when an accident or incident occurs in the workplace which requires treatment from a registered G.P. or treatment in hospital. An accident or incident which results in an employee being absent for 3 days or more must also be reported to the Authority.
(2) Preventive Measures
Boards are urged to consider and implement measures which would prevent or minimise the risk of assault to the employees of the board. The effectiveness of agreed procedures should be reviewed where necessary.
External Liaison—See also our Policy on Home-School Links
Admitting parents/ visitors to the school
Parents who wish to have a consultation with a school employee should make a prior appointment with the relevant person. Specifically, access to teachers should be on an appointment only basis, particularly where the circumstances are likely to provoke a confrontation. At such a meeting a teacher may be accompanied by a colleague.
Where sensitive issues are the subject of discussion, arrangements should be made for conducting such interviews in private. Conducting interviews at the door of a classroom while simultaneously supervising a class of children is not conducive to open communication. Particular care must be taken to ensure that parent/teacher consultations do not take place within the hearing of pupils.
Parent Teacher meetings:
A formal parent/teacher meeting is held once a year and parents are given adequate notice regarding the timing of such meetings.
Code of behaviour:
A code of behaviour has been put in place and is signed up to by parents when a child is being enrolled.
The issues of internal school procedures are discussed at staff meetings and staff is made aware of all policy documents and procedures. In circumstances of increased risk, training should be provided for staff in identifying potentially violent situations and in calming down these situations.
Steps to be followed in the event of an assault, physical or verbal. These steps should also be followed where employees have been intimidated or threatened with verbal or physical violence.
The incident should be reported immediately to the Principal/Deputy Principal or another colleague.
Where necessary, immediate medical assistance should be sought.
Details of the incident should be recorded ASAP in the school incident book.
The matter should be reported to the Gardaí, where appropriate.
The Chairperson of the Board of Management should be notified of the incident and following consultation with the employee and Principal, follow-up action will be taken i.e. where necessary, an emergency board meeting should take place. The Board should notify its legal advisors and insurance co. of the assault. In the case of injury, an initial legal consultation should be provided by the Board to the employee concerned.
Where the assault is by a pupil, the matter is dealt with in accordance with the Code of Behaviour.
Where the assault is committed by a parent or guardian, he or she will be immediately instructed in writing, not to make direct contact with the teacher or school, pending full consideration of the matter by the Board. Subsequently the Board will correspond with the offender stating:
-that the Board considers the assault unacceptable
-what action the Board intends to take, and
-outlining what pre-conditions should be met before access to the school is restored.
The employee who has suffered the assault should be given leave of absence, with pay and substitute cover as is necessary, to take legal advice and to appear in court, where required.
Similar time off, with pay and substitute cover should be allowed to the victim to attend a consultation with an Employee Assistance Officer for the purposes of receiving counseling.
Where an employee’s personal property is damaged in the course of an assault, full compensation for its replacement value should be paid by the employer.