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Teachers as Parents, Professionals, and Employees:Juggling the Roles
IntroductionTeachers, who are also parents with children in the same school or school board, face difficult professional juggling acts. Teachers play a number of different roles within the system. These roles are not always compatible.
Teachers as Parent Advocates
It is important to advocate on behalf of one’s child. It is frustrating to see your child struggle, or to see the school system make a decision you feel adversely affects your child. However, it is crucial for the teacher in this position to be aware of their roles as a member of the teaching profession, as a member of ETFO, and as an employee of the school board. As an advocate for your child, make sure your actions do not compromise your other roles.
Teachers as Professionals
Teachers are expected to follow a code of ethics. In particular, they should be aware of their obligations under the Teaching Profession Act. Section 18 (1) (b) of the Regulation under the Act provides that:
A member shall:on making an adverse report on another member, furnish him* with a written statement of the report at the earliest possible time and not later than three days after making the report.
It would be unacceptable for a member of the profession to make an adverse report to an administrator of his or her child’s school about the child’s teacher, unless there is compliance with s.18 (1)(b).
The teacher would be required to put the report in writing and provide a copy of that report to the child’s teacher within 72 hours. Failure to comply with this expectation could result in a complaint to the member’s affiliate and possible sanctions. The one exception to this requirement would be if the negative report related to an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a student made by a member against another member.
If a teacher publicly criticizes another teacher, any member of the public may file a complaint with the alleging that such comments were “unprofessional”. Also, public comments about teachers, or anyone else for that matter, must not be defamatory.
Teachers as Employees
As employees of the board, teachers have the right to complain about breaches of the collective agreement. Avenues to explore a resolution are set out in the collective agreement. These activities are directly related to the employment relationship between the employee and the employer.
Teachers should be cautious about taking part in community action against their employer on issues that involve their child’s education. For example, if the school board made a decision about staffing or school closure that the teacher was not happy with because of a perceived impact on his or her child, the teacher would have to be cautious about how she or he advocated for change. Participation in such an activity must be professional and appropriate, or the teacher risks being disciplined for “insubordination”.
While teachers have the right to freedom of expression, they must balance this right against their roles as employees.
There are many occasions when teachers are vocal in their opposition to their employers without being insubordinate. For example, during collective bargaining, teachers often participate in collective activities, such as wearing appropriate protest buttons or distributing leaflets, as a part of a union-sponsored protest. Such collective actions are legitimate exercises of the union’s rights.
It is rare that teachers would be disciplined for such collective activity. The same is not true for highly critical public statements instigated by a teacher without union sanction, or advice from Professional Relations Services.
Points to Remember
Teachers who find themselves in difficulty because of their competing roles should remember the following:
Members are advised to consult their Local President or Professional Relations staff in Protective Services at 416-962-3836 or 1-888-838-3836 for additional information.