Monday, November 14, 2005

Maybe teacher unions should focus on bullying of children

In a case of bad timing and bad taste, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) and Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) chose to go ahead today with a news release “calling on government and school boards to work with them to confront workplace bullying” based on the results of phase 2 of their Bullying in the Workplace Study.

The release came out in the late morning on the same day that the Globe and Mail is carrying a front-page Christie Blatchford piece about 18 months of sexual harassment and assault allegedly suffered by a 16-year-old girl at a Catholic high school in northwest Toronto (online subscription required). To be fair, it appears that the harassment was not reported to teachers, and Blatchford notes that it came to light when a teacher intervened on overhearing the girl being harassed in a hallway.

OECTA and OSSTF note in the release that they are using their survey to advocate not only on behalf of bullied teachers, but bullied workers everywhere. In September they released a survey on teacher bullying by students. Nowhere in their two-part study do they talk about bullying of students by students.

On a related note, in Saturday’s National Post there was a story about how Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy is looking into the fact that some school boards are allowing teacher unions to administer his $500-per-education-worker payoffs, er, “Teacher Development Accounts.” This $80-million kitty was offered to unions as an inducement to agree to four-year collective agreements to ensure that the McGuintyites would have no labour problems in schools until after the 2007 election. The Post reports that “there is little uniformity between boards on how the non-taxable benefits are distributed -- or even the amount.”

So Kennedy offered the unions a bribe, and now he’s shocked that they’re treating the money as a slush fund? Kennedy’s surprise belongs to the same category as Captain Renault’s shock that gambling was taking place at Rick’s in Casablanca. And the Liberals’ special relationship with teacher unions will ensure that nothing will come of Kennedy’s investigation.

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