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Students protest teacher job action

BCTF votes to step back from extra-curricular activities at school



For Grade 6 student Stephanie Tomcheck the labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the provincial government reached a critical point last week.

She and a group of students in Grades 5 through 7 at Myrtle Philip Elementary launched a protest of their own after they learned all overnight school trips had been cancelled, some spring sporting activities were in jeopardy and grad activities were looking at an overhaul.

Stephanie and her schoolmates made some signs and set up a protest line at Myrtle Philip before school on Thursday, April 19. She said they waved their signs at people in passing cars.

"We got a few honks from the cars," Stephanie said.

The students had planned to continue their protest after the morning bell rang, but she said Principal Sharon Broatch told them they couldn't protest on the school grounds and they had to go to class.

Stephanie said one of the reasons she was protesting is because the Grade 6 students won't be going to Camp Homewood for the annual week-long trip this year.

"We were all really, really sad because all the grades before us told us it is one of the funnest things they have ever done in their school career," said Stephanie. A parent has stepped up to organize an alternate camp-style trip for Grade 6, though it means missing days of instruction.

Tomchek said other kids were protesting because the graduation celebration for the Grade 7 students will be held during school hours instead of at night, as has been the case in past years.

The protest at the elementary school happened as members of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) voted to step up pressure in their ongoing dispute with the provincial government. The membership voted 73 per cent last week in favour of a resistance strategy to oppose Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act. As a result of the vote, BCTF members are encouraged to stop participating in any extra-curricular activities.

The B.C. Public Sector Employers' Association (BCSPEA) issued a bulletin on Tuesday, April 24 explaining its position on the issue of report cards.

According to the BCSPEA, the Labour Relations Board (LRB) ordered the BCTF and its local teachers' associations on April 20 to stop advising teachers that they should not submit marks.

"The LRB Order states that teachers must submit marks or letter grades for all current courses, classes, and subjects for the time period from the beginning of the school year to the present (including the time of the strike up to March 17)," the BCSPEA has indicated on its website.

The BCSPEA has asked school districts to order BCTF members to issue report cards by the end of the month or sooner. Parents in Sea to Sky will be receiving report cards in the coming days.

The full text LRB ruling written by Michael Fleming of the LRB can be found on the Internet at the LRB web site (

Whistler Secondary School Council President Chelsea McCurdy said she is trying to stay informed about the dispute between the teachers and the province. A big concern for her is the impact the dispute will have on the graduation ceremony at her school in June.

She said teachers traditionally help to organize the event but she thinks parents will organize the graduation festivities this year.

Despite the job action, Chelsea said she expects teachers will be part of the celebration."Because we are such a close-knit school I feel that some teachers will still take part even if they don't help organize it," Chelsea said.

According to Susan Lambert of the BCTF the vote was emotional for teachers.

The leadership of the teachers union hasn't ruled out withdrawing teaching services again at some point in the future after teachers abandoned their classrooms for three days before the School District 48 spring break.

According to the BCTF, the plan to resist the legislation in Bill 22 may include another vote on a full withdrawal of services. They are also working in advance of the May 2013 provincial election, which they believe will bring in a new government that will repeal Bill 22.

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