Emerging Issues

Back-to-School & Work: A Refresher on Spotting Warning Signs

September 04, 2021


As a teacher, you may not have seen your students in-person for over a year and therefore more adept at noticing concerning differences in their behaviour or appearance. After all, abuse at home can really affect their ability to perform well in school, focus on tasks, complete assignments, or even form strong social relationships. Likewise, teachers are in a position of respect and trust, which means that students might prefer to disclose abuse to them. Everyone from teachers to support staff like guidance counsellors, learning resource helpers, and administrators can help support students. The school can connect with social workers, police services and CAS depending on the issue and the age of the student.

These domestic violence warning signs will help you understand some of the more common signs if you suspect a child/student might be experiencing some form of abuse - physical, sexual, emotional, verbal.

· Poor attendance

· Unwillingness to go home

· Isolation; unusually quiet and withdrawn.

· Emotional distress or flatness, tearfulness, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

· Engaging in risky behaviour or unhealthy relationships

· Heightened anxiety & responses to situations which are disproportionate to the situation (i.e. high level of anxiousness about the school contacting a parent over a minor issue)

· Difficulty regulating emotions and anger


Training Options for Ontario Teachers

For the past few years, the Equity and Women’s Services at the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) have sponsored three, two-day workshops a year for educators on the dynamics of woman abuse and its impact on children, what signs students may display when they are living with woman abuse, and how this form of violence exposure may affect their readiness and ability to learn in terms of literacy, numeracy, and social skills.

Read the full blogs here: http://www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca/blogs/2016/backtoschool.html




Remark on the following warning signs if you are returning to the office and will interact with your co-workers in-person:

· Obvious injuries such as bruises, black eyes, broken bones, hearing loss attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents.”

· Seasonally-inappropriate clothing like long sleeves and turtlenecks

· Sunglasses and unusually heavy makeup.

· Sensitivity about home/personal life— comments may include references to bad moods, anger, temper, and alcohol or drug abuse.

· Spending long hours at work/school, unwillingness to go home.

· Change in performance: poor concentration and errors, inconsistent work quality.



Encourage video meetings if possible

· Note if certain employees are reluctant to turn on or keep their camera on. Similarly, note if they seem self-conscious that someone off-screen is carefully listening to their words

· Note what the employee is wearing, such as long sleeves on a hot day or more makeup than usual

· Note the employee’s body language; do they seem relaxed in their own home?

· Is there anything in the video background that might seem alarming or concerning?


Track changes in work performance and behaviour

· Has their productivity or concentration dipped in response to distractions at home?

· Have they started cutting off social contact with coworkers with whom they were once friends?

· Do they seem less relaxed on the phone or in video meetings than they used to be in-person?


Unexplained sickness or absences

· Did an employee take time off from work only to return even more stressed or anxious than before?

· Are they constantly late for work or meetings for personal reasons?


If these in-person or virtual warning signs resonate with a coworker’s behaviour and you are concerned for their safety, reach out. Tell them that you want to disclose something confidential, but ask what would be their preferred, most secure method of communication. Afterwards, use our guide on communicating with an employee at risk to help frame the conversation. Read our full blog here about spotting abuse while working remotely: http://makeitourbusiness.ca/blog/2020/new_warning_signs_for_spotting_abuse__canadian_labour_laws_supporting_victims.html