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Teacher lockout hurts grads

UPDATE 9:40 A.M. 

Contrary to reports provided yesterday from Central Okanagan Teachers' Association President Susan Bauhart, who told Castanet that teachers are not being allowed to attend grad ceremonies and other extracurricular activities, the Ministry of Education is saying that is not the case.

Documentation provided by the government from the BC Public School Employers Association clearly states teachers are welcome to attend events outside of regular school hours, even those that take place on school grounds.

Q: Are teachers locked out or “banned” from participating in extracurricular activities such as graduation ceremonies, awards ceremonies, sports events, and year-end celebrations?

A: No. Teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, including on school property. There is nothing in the lockout that prevents BCTF members from continuing to participate in such activities as graduation, sports, and awards events. If teachers choose not to participate in such activities, they do so as a result of their own decision.

A fact reiterated by an information document sent to all parents in the Central Okanagan which stated:

Q: Does this partial lockout ban or prevent teachers from participating in extracurricular activities such as graduation ceremonies, awards ceremonies, sports events and year-end celebrations?

A: NO. Extracurricular activities are not considered paid work and teachers do this of their own choice. Teachers are welcome to continue their involvement with any extracurricular or volunteer activities of their choice. There is nothing in the current order that prevents teachers from attending or participating in any voluntary events or activities. If teachers refuse to attend, they do so by their own choice or the encouragement of their union.

Calls to Central Okanagan Teachers' Association President Susan Bauhart for a response Friday morning have not yet be returned.   

We will have more details as they become available. 


ORIGINAL STORY: 

The teachers' strike is a hot topic that touches all parts of society from politicians to parents to support workers to the students and teachers themselves.

Now, with the school year coming to an end, students are saying the government-imposed lock out conditions are hurting everyone.

Those lockout conditions mean band teachers can't attend final concerts, drama teachers can't direct final plays and no teacher can attend grad ceremonies on school grounds.

Students at George Elliot Secondary School in Lake Country are personally affected by this. They were recently told that no teacher can attend their grad ceremony, being held next Friday on school grounds.

Matthew Colangelo is one of the students about to graduate and he is angry that his teachers won't be there to see him get his diploma.

“They worked five years to make it happen and they should be there,” said Colangelo.

He says the lockout conditions will not only affect the grad ceremony, but is also hurting all of his classmates in all areas.

“A lot of us are upset about grad but it is even more so about the school plays and the concerts,” he said. “The teachers that run them and worked to make to them happen can't attend them and be there to direct them.”

 President of the Central Okanagan Teachers' Association Susan Bauhart said teachers are torn up about missing events that mean the world to themselves and their students.

“I mean, it is a tragedy and anyone who believes the teachers are taking this lightly are wrong, it is ripping their hearts out,” said Bauhart.

She was made aware of the situation in Lake Country this morning and said that unfortunately the reality is that except for the 45-minutes before and after class, teachers are locked out from school facilities.

“The employer has locked them out. The lock out letter very specifically told the teachers not to be in school facilities, like George Elliot where the grad is being held, beyond those time periods,” explained Bauhart.

She also says that if teachers break the rules and attend grad ceremonies anyways, they could face repercussions.

“When a teacher is given a direction from an employer they are subject to potential discipline should they ignore the direction and that is the reality here and teachers are locked out, they are being told not to be in the school beyond those times,” said Bauhart.

George Elliot Secondary School's grad ceremonies are a particular problem because they are being held on school grounds. which teachers cannot attend.

However, many other schools throughout BC hold grad ceremonies at off-site locations, which should mean teachers could attend right? According to Bauhart, unless the teacher is a family member of a student graduating, it is still a confusing grey area.

“As for off-site, they may be able to attend as guests but that has not been clearly defined, it is a grey area,” as she says the lockout wordage includes doing any 'work' related to their job - even off school grounds.

Bauhart says the BCTF is now before the Labour Relations Board to get more clarifications on the lockout rules and that she will be in touch with them to clarify if teachers can attend grad ceremonies in the Okanagan.

“I just wish the government would bring some resources to the table. They aren't that far apart as people are making it seem,” sighed Bauhart. “And really, public education is not a bad investment.”

“Regardless of what some of the public says you just don't know the bonds that are out there between teachers and their students,” she adds. “I understand this young man is upset and his teachers understand that even more.”

Superintendent for the Central Okanagan School District Hugh Gloster says it is a difficult time for teachers and students alike and the district itself is not asking teachers to stay away.

"We are not placing any restrictions on our teachers, as far as we are concerned they are most welcome to attend and be involved, there is no direction as the employer in this situation.”

But Gloster says he realizes many teachers will not be attending because of the job action and they are prepared to make sure the show goes on.

“We know that the graduation ceremony is one of those milestone events in one's life and certainty for our students and our families we want to make sure that goes ahead,” shared Gloster. “The plans as they stand are to use our management team , administrative staff and we will look to feeder schools to have some of their admin staff be involved.”

He says it is also common to enlist the help of grade 11 students and parents to work behind the scenes at the ceremonies to ensure grade 12 parents can enjoy the ceremony in the audience.

But he says at the end of the day he knows it's hard when teachers cannot be there.

'We know that it is our teachers who contribute most obviously to the education journey of these kids and to their success so what I would say is that students like to see their teachers there and teachers like to be there to celebrate that milestone so I would say it is difficult on all parties.”

As for Colangelo and his classmates who were trying to find a way for their favourite teachers to attend grad.

“We don't know, we're stuck, we just don't know,” he said

Are you a student affected by the lockout and strike or a parent of one and want to share your story? Email us at [email protected]

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