Skip to content

'It starts at home': Ford weighs in on school violence, getting hit by his parents

The education minister said the premier's experience 'resonates' with him and emphasized that parents will make the best decisions for their kids
Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a news conference at Bramalea GO Station, in Brampton, on Thursday May 11, 2023.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park

Premier Doug Ford said Monday he believes school violence "starts at home" and that if he had ever hit a teacher, he'd "get twice the hit" when he got home.

The anecdote led some online commentators — and the Ontario Liberal leader — to assume the premier was advocating for corporal punishment, something Ford's education minister denied. 

It started at a press conference in Mississauga when Ford was asked what the government is doing to tackle the issue of violence in elementary schools. The reporter cited a survey by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) that the union says shows high and rising rates of violence in public schools, requiring increased funding for public schools and more support staff for high-needs students.

Ford replied that when he grew up, the last thing someone would think of doing was hitting a teacher.

"I think, honestly, as well, it starts at home," he continued. "Man, I will speak for my parents: God forbid I ever went up and hit a teacher, I'd get twice the hit when I got home, and I think everyone else out there would say the same thing."

He went on to tell kids to respect their teachers and say that teaching is a tough job that he could never do. He later added that he supports having police in schools.

Later at Queen's Park, Education Minister Stephen Lecce told the media Ford wasn't suggesting parents should hit their children, as some had assumed.

"He did note, of course, the parents are the first educators. They are the ones on the front lines and raising their children," Lecce said. "And I think he's drawing on his own experience — and if I could be so bold, an experience that resonates with me."

"We appreciate that parents will make the best decisions about how to raise their kids and how to make sure that there's a healthy level of discipline," he continued.

Asked what he meant about the experience resonating when him, he said he was "speaking about the idea of children of parents utilizing their own judgment to raise their kids."

"His experience, perhaps is a shared one of mine, and perhaps others out there," Lecce added.

Ontario's education minister also elaborated on what the government is doing to combat violence in schools, noting an announcement of $24 million for community programs he made in late April in response to recent incidents of violence in schools, as well as increasing spending to continue school-based mental health supports over the summer.

He attributed school violence to increasing mental health challenges in society, rather than parenting. 

"At the end of the day, my job as minister of education is to respect parents and how they raise their kids and to make sure that when they drop off their kids, for the majority of the day at publicly funded school, that it is safe," Lecce said, adding that his government has increased funding and staffing at schools. 

But ETFO and the opposition parties at Queen's Park dispute Lecce's characterization of public school funding, noting that funding increases haven't kept pace with inflation since the Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said schools have reached a "crisis point" with violence as the result.

"The answers are we need more caring adults in schools, we need more support," she said. "We need more educational workers, more educational assistants. And our education workers need to feel supported."

Meanwhile, Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser took aim at the premier for trying to "aw shucks" his way out of a serious discussion about school violence.

"What the premier said this morning in terms of getting a couple of whacks is not helpful. It's not fun," he said. "Physical violence is not the way to solve this. That's not the way to make our schools safer."

The comments demonstrate that the premier's not engaged with the problem and doesn't understand what the solutions are, Fraser added.

"I'm not worried about what happened to the premier 40 years ago," he said. "There's a serious situation in our schools."


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Jessica Smith Cross

About the Author: Jessica Smith Cross

Reporting for Metro newspapers in five Canadian cities, as well as for CTV, the Guelph Mercury and the Turtle Island News. She made the leap to political journalism in 2016...
Read more