The province's education minister and the head of the teachers union are reminding teachers not to discuss their ongoing contract dispute in the classroom.

Education Department staff have received "numerous reports from parents that the topic of 'job action' or 'strike' is being openly discussed or included in assignments in classrooms across the province," spokeswoman Heather Fairbairn said in an email Thursday.

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union have been using work-to-rule job action since Dec. 5.

"While students are directly impacted by the NSTU's job action, they should not be tasked by their teachers to comment or take action as part of their classroom instructional time," Fairbairn said in the email.

Students asked to write 'persuasion' letter

Education Minister Karen Casey wrote to union president Liette Doucet earlier this week voicing her concerns about the situation.

Casey mentioned one incident brought to her attention where the teacher of a Grade 6 class wanted students to write "a persuasion letter" either to the government or union about the current work-to-rule job action.

"I am hopeful that you share my view that this type of action by teachers — arguably using students to advance one's agenda — is inappropriate," Casey wrote.

"Without question, students are being impacted by NSTU's job action, but they should not be drawn into this level of detail of the dispute and, most certainly, should not be tasked by a teacher to provide their 'opinion' on it."

Union president agrees

In an interview, Doucet said the union is aware of at least one situation that prompted concerns from parents. She said when work-to-rule was first announced it was made clear to the union's 9,300 members that the issue wasn't to be used as a discussion topic or teaching tool.

"It shouldn't be something that's coming up in the classroom," Doucet said.

The union has told teachers that if students have questions about the situation, to answer them as basically as possible, but to stick to lesson plans in the classroom and not discuss the subject with their students, she said.

Talk to teachers about concerns

Parents who have concerns about anything in the classroom should start by contacting the teacher, just as they would with any other situation, Doucet said. If that doesn't work, they can move up the administrative chain from there.

"Usually it's solved at the first level," she said.