Kitchener-Waterloo

Ditch the teacher snitch line, Waterloo region school board trustees tell province

Trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board will officially ask the province to reverse plans to allow parents to file complaints online about teachers and to let teachers use the 2015 sex-ed curriculum.
Waterloo Region District School Board trustees voted Wednesday night to ask the province to allow teachers to use the 2015 sex-ed curriculum and to reverse a decision to allow parents to file online complaints about teachers. (Waterloo Region District School Board/Twitter)

Trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board want the province to reverse plans for a teacher "snitch line."

They also want the 2015 sex-ed curriculum back.

In a special committee of the whole meeting Wednesday night, trustees voted in favour of sending a letter to Premier Doug Ford expressing concern about parents being allowed to report teachers on an online form, which has been dubbed a snitch line.

The trustees will request the legislation be repealed "in order to maintain a safe learning environment for all our staff and students," the board's Twitter account said.

The trustees will also send a formal request to Ontario Minister of Education Lisa Thompson asking for teachers to be allowed to use the 2015 sex-ed curriculum "to allow our board to continue to adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code and fulfill our strategic plan."

The decisions will need to be ratified at a board meeting.

Staff looking at changes to curriculum

Board chair Scott McMillan said the votes to take action were "in fairly overwhelming fashion."

"There really is just no place in an education system for a 'snitch line,'" he said.

Wednesday night's meeting heard from eight delegations with many of them talking about the need for consent to be discussed starting in elementary school.

"Basically they were saying, going back to 1998, even with the 2010 update with the sex-ed curriculum, is not a path forward," McMillan said.

The meeting came a week after the province's Ministry of Education issued a new directive on what can be taught in the classrooms when it comes to health and physical education.

The high school curriculum will not change, but elementary students will be taught the curriculum that was put in place in 1998.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford also announced a website where parents can report concerns about teachers who aren't following the curriculum, which has been dubbed a "snitch line" by union officials.

McMillan said those reports are sent to the Ontario Teachers College, and the college determines whether they'll pursue any complaints. The board would not be involved.

'Unnecessary and toxic'

In a statement to CBC K-W, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it appreciates the efforts by the school board to support teachers.

"The government's 'snitch line' ignores the systems already in place for parents and educators to deal constructively with issues at the school level. Educators have strong relationships with parents and communicate with them on a regular basis. This anonymous complaint line is unproductive, unnecessary and toxic," the ETFO statement said.

"While school boards may provide further guidance, ETFO educators will use their professional judgment to ensure they are creating safe and healthy classrooms for all students and providing the information that students need to deal with the realities of 2018. Our students deserve as much."

CBC K-W reached out the officers of Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Senior staff combing through 2010 update

When it comes to the classroom experience this fall, McMillan said parents and students won't notice a big difference in their classroom. 

There's a lot of "bravado and bluster" outside the classroom, but the educators will make things "seamless" in the classroom.

Senior staff are combing through the 2010 update to the curriculum and comparing it to the 2015.

They're "finding out what opportunities there are, what challenges there are and how they're going to direct their administrators to work with their teaching staff to deliver the curriculum as mandated by the ministry, but also live up to our strategic plan which puts out students first, each and every one, and that includes our LGBT students."

Parents, McMillan said, won't notice any change.

"This is all a political show and I think it's an attempt to use some of our most marginalized students to gain votes, and I think that's what this is about," he said. "Everything's going to be running as normal and our educators and administrators are going to do a fantastic job keeping the chaos ... behind the curtain."