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Follow-Up: Teachers Tweeting About Job Action

Posted on 8 March 2012

I got a couple of comments on my post about policy surrounding teachers and speaking in public about the state of education in the province that I think are worth sharing here.

The first came from Bob Cotter, who shared the policy for School District 46 (The Sunshine Coast). Section 3.17 reads:

3.17 EMPLOYEE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

The Board recognizes that respectful debate about educational issues is important. In that regard, judicial and arbitral jurisprudence has clarified that teachers have the right to engage in political discussion and the freedom to express their views to parents on such educational issues under Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter). Any restrictions on expression have to be justified under Section 1 of the Charter. Administrative regulations for distributing union/political information on educational matters to parents must be considered within the established legal framework.

It goes on to stress the importance of maintaining the “confidence of students, parents, and the public,” but it establishes very clearly that teachers can talk, which I’d argue is somewhat obfuscated in the policies of SD 57.

That said, I also received a comment from Glen Thielmann, who teaches in the district. His comment is worth sharing in full:

“Great questions, Andrew.  Teachers in SD57 often think they are under a gag order of some kind, but I have not actually found this to be the case.  I have invested some serious time over the last 5 years as a “activist stakeholder” in our district (via email, blog, twitter, letters, reports, presentations, media interviews, etc.) and have not had any flak over it. I have not held back from strong views as I tried to cast some bright light into many dark corners of shoddy practice and lack of think-time in classrooms, schools, district, Ministry, and Legislature. I have also celebrated success at every turn, especially when it corrects a past practice that was embarrassing or unproductive (and you’d be amazed at how many of these we tolerate). Granted, I have tried to balance critique with positive solutions and I speak in general terms rather than focusing on issues involving specific individuals, so I self-edit based on my perceived limits of taste and ethics. I’ve had lots of great feedback over the years, even a letter of thanks from a former education minister. So I’d say the climate for offering constructive criticism is fine in SD57, even if the policy and response to criticism is in need of work (it seems sometimes that noone is listening). This has been my experience, anyways — I have never been subject to censure. Great link form Bob Cutter… amazing respect for what SD46 has done!”

I’m wondering if any other teachers in SD57 or beyond have experiences to share.

Filed under: British Columbia

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