'Public backlash' forced NSTU to drop work-to-rule complaint, principal says

The Dartmouth local of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has dropped a complaint against three of its members who planned a Dartmouth High School student trip to Vimy Ridge.

Three colleagues faced disciplinary action for continuing to plan school trip to Vimy Ridge

Dartmouth High School principal Eartha Monard, right, looks over paperwork with former vice-principal Randolph Sullivan. Both had faced NSTU disciplinary action over planning for a student trip to Vimy Ridge. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

The Dartmouth local of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has dropped a complaint against three of its members for planning a Dartmouth High School student trip to the Battle of Vimy Ridge 100-year anniversary celebrations.

Principal Eartha Monard said she felt vindicated by the decision. She credited the public support for her, a teacher colleague and her vice-principal from last year for the union's change of heart.

"There were comments from other principals, there were comments from teachers. I think the public backlash was the reason for this," she told CBC News Monday. 

Although a union news release said the decision to drop the complaint was made last week and registered letters were sent to the affected members on Friday, Monard said her letter arrived Monday.

Monard did get a voicemail message from NSTU president Liette Doucette Monday afternoon informing her the letter would be coming and that a news release was going out.

"I feel vindicated for sure but I feel they owe me an apology as well, putting me through something that was just so ridiculous," said Monard.

"I have received nothing but support from people. I have received e-mails and phone messages from principals and teachers from across the country if you can believe that.

"The support was just phenomenal."

Trip important 'to Canadian society'

Monard said she also received messages of support from military members and from groups associated with veterans. 

Monard said the union should have considered the impact of its work-to-rule campaign on trips such as her school's to Vimy Ridge and allowed union members to continue to plan.

"Given the importance of this trip to Canadian society, given what it means to the families, this is something that should not have been part of a work-to-rule strategy." 

She said the union's decision wasn't well thought out. "They've shown that they made poor decisions and these decisions were not in the best interests of students." 

Faced with a similar situation, Monard said she would do the exact same thing. "If they had actually carried out disciplinary measures I would have been fighting to the very end, because I feel strongly that I did the right thing for the students and the families in this community."  

While a formal complaint was filed, the union said it was dropped before it was reviewed by its disciplinary committee. The union said no sanctions were ever made against the affected members.

The educators took 83 students to France and Amsterdam one year ago. Much of the planning took place between Dec. 2016 and Feb. 2017, when union members were told to only work to the terms of their contracts, which meant no extracurricular activities such as school trips.

But the union said directives were changed so students and teachers could participate in the Battle of Vimy Ridge centennial.