Prince Rupert school board passes employee conduct and political activities policy

What has been considered to be one of the more controversial areas to be revamped in the policy book, employee conduct and political activities, was recently approved at last week’s school board meeting even though some members of the board didn’t not approve the policy.

What has been considered to be one of the more controversial areas to be revamped in the policy book, employee conduct and political activities, was recently approved at last week’s school board meeting even though some members of the board didn’t not approve the policy.

The area of the policy included the process of distribution of information for subjects such as discussion of political or religious issues in the classroom, distribution of political or religious materials, public comments on district policies or with respect to circumstances related to district activities, meetings of a political or religious nature and running for public office.

The areas listed in the policy have caused some issues with partner groups in previous months. Both the PRDTU and IUOE have expressed their concerns with the employee conduct and political activities, saying that it limited their rights of freedom of expression. These groups were not the only ones to feel this way about the areas.

“I cannot in good faith support this policy. I keep asking myself why do we need it? Do we have something to hide? I believe in a more compassionate way of solving problems. I just feel like there’s a presence of an over restricted measure,” said trustee Louisa Sanchez, who was against the motion to approve the policy.

Additionally, trustee Janet Beil, who sits on the policy committee, says it’s not in the best interest of the board at this time.

“I don’t understand why we have to be so restrictive. Over the years, I’ve had two children attend school in the district, and I’ve never seen any political type of information come home with the children…I don’t think it’s a necessity at this time,” explained Beil, who wasn’t in support of the policy.

Secretary-Treasurer Cam McIntyre said that the policy isn’t meant to restrict employee’s freedom of speech. It’s intended to clarify a process so there isn’t any surprises later, not to try to restrict employees freedom of speech.

Trustee Russell Wiens, who was in favour of the policy, argued that a lot of what’s in this area of the policy book has already been in practice.

“It doesn’t infringe on teachers right of distributing material home to the parents. It respects the ruling of that law, it just lays out the process [of how to do so],” Wiens said.

In the end the policy received approval from every trustee except for Sanchez and Beil. Additional areas of the policy book will continue to be updated, and according Superintendent Lynn Hauptman, it will take some time.

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