Report urges classroom changes after teacher injured at Gatineau school

·2 min read
Lac-des-Fées elementary school features four specialized classes for students with learning delays.  (Olivier Periard/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Lac-des-Fées elementary school features four specialized classes for students with learning delays. (Olivier Periard/Radio-Canada - image credit)

An inspector from Quebec's workplace safety commission has noted numerous problems in classes for children with special needs at Gatineau's École du Lac-des-Fées after a teacher was injured by a student.

Radio-Canada obtained a copy of the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) report, which details a violent incident at the school on Jan. 31.

Shortly after recess, a student threw a hard plastic hourglass injuring the teacher's head. She received first aid from her colleague and was taken to hospital.

The CNESST report raised issues like lack of staff training, shortcomings in the pursuant investigation and an unsafe layout of the classroom, calling on the school board to take action.

The commission's intervention is a "pretty rare" case, according to Kim Lafleur-Lauriault, president of the Syndicat du soutien scolaire de l'Outaouais, which represents school support staff.

"The school board will have to follow it, but I think that everywhere in Quebec, they will have to follow those recommendations," she said.

Inspector visited school

A CNESST inspector visited the school on March 24 to discuss the circumstances surrounding the incident and how the board manages the risk of assault.

The inspector also briefly visited the class where the student threw the hourglass and later issued nine recommendations to address shortcomings related to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

According to the report, three out of nine relate to issues in training school personnel to intervene in a safe manner during a violent crisis involving a student.

"Not all workers who are likely to be exposed to violence at work are trained for this purpose," the report states in French.

"[The employer] thinks that there is a training register, but it is not updated."

The inspector also noted in the event of a worker's absence, substitutes aren't always trained to intervene in a crisis situation and incidents aren't always properly recorded.

The layout of the classroom is not always safe, with a small library restricting a quick exit from the room, the report added. There were also small items, like a copper bell and hourglasses, that could be thrown.

Lafleur-Lauriault said staff are seeing more violence in schools so something has to be done to "protect the staff."

The school board, Centre de services scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais (CSSPO), and CNESST declined to comment on the report.

In its report, CNESST noted it's impossible to eliminate all violent behaviour, but more could be done.