Published June 28, 2023 8:03 p.m. ET
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A long-time teacher is speaking out about the increasing violence at his high school in Brampton.
Educators from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School shared several videos with CTV News Toronto of fights in hallways and near school doorways from this past year, which were posted to social media.
One educator said fights were occurring daily at one point this past spring. Another said school violence has been higher than average, but the post-pandemic period saw a ‘dramatic spike.’
CTV News Toronto agreed not to name these two educators.
James Murphy taught at St. Thomas Aquinas for 28 years.
That ended in November 2019, after he said he saw a bike being thrown into a crowd of students, which prompted him to intervene.
“I had a moral obligation to make sure. I saw that bicycle as a weapon,” Murphy told CTV News Toronto in an interview Wednesday.
Murphy said he was later threatened by a student involved in the bike incident.
“Student says to me ‘You don’t want to get me mad, you don’t know what’s going to happen,’” Murphy recalled. “He said he was going to hurt me basically, he wanted to fight me over the bike.”
Murphy said he told senior leadership it was no longer safe for him to work at the school. He said he later received a letter from the board, viewed by CTV News Toronto, which said allegations of inappropriate behaviour were brought to their attention. Murphy was instructed not to have contact with anyone associated with the school, except the principal.
Murphy said he was later diagnosed with a significant cognitive impairment and has been on long-term disability ever since.
“I haven’t seen my colleagues, I haven’t played hockey it’s been very upsetting,” he said.
“There’s no part of my life that hasn’t been impacted by this, professionally, personally … it’s impacted my relationship with my spouse because she is an administrator with the same school board. It’s been devastating.”
Murphy said violence at the school is too common, that teachers are scared, and that administration is overworked and even neglectful.
“Regrettably, the generalization of St. Thomas Aquinas by the employee is a discredit to the students and staff and the many great things that take place at this school,” a spokesperson from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) said in a statement.
“Concerning behaviour has increased post-pandemic across DPCDSB. Student behaviour is assessed against the requirements dictated by the Education Act and its regulations, which outline which progressive disciplinary consequences are appropriate and required based on the behaviour. DPCDSB is committed to responding to all acts of violence according to appropriate legislation, policy, and procedure.”
Murphy misses teaching and said he has made a case to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for allegations around the way he was treated. The school board denies any violation.
“My hope is that (the) school board starts to listen to their employees, you know, ethical discipline returning, and not to be scared of making decisions.”