Duties of ‘paid and employed’ teachers outlined in memo from Nova Scotia gov’t

Ahead of Monday’s job action, the Nova Scotia government sent teachers and principals a refresher on their duties under the education act.

Next week, the province’s 9,300 teachers will start working-to-rule. The union has told them to limit their availability to students outside of instruction time and not to supervise students over the lunch hour, among many other changes.

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READ MORE: What will work-to-rule mean for parents and students?

A late-night memo sent to Nova Scotia’s public school teachers and principals Thursday appears to suggest that teachers’ and principals’ responsibilities stretch beyond class time.

Parts of the memo, obtained by Global News, are highlighted in bold and capitalized.

“THIS NOTICE is being issued to ensure safety of students and full compliance with these duties at all times when you are being paid and employed as a Teacher at work and on School property,” the letter reads.

“You are directed to comply with these duties at all times while you are employed and being paid as a Teacher in the public education system in Nova Scotia.”

The memo reminds principals that it is their duty to keep attendance records, communicate regularly with parents, and to ensure a safe learning environment. The union’s rules for work-to-rule tell principals not to update school websites, social media or newsletters, and not to supervise over the lunch hour unless they’re responding to a safety issue.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers’ 16 contract demands and what the province says they cost

For teachers, the memo reminds them to communicate regularly with parents, keep required records, and maintain a “safe learning environment.”

The union’s rules for teachers during work-to-rule instruct them not to do any record keeping on the software systems, only to take attendance on paper and not to update electronic communication “unless it is related to health and safety matters.”

The memo goes on to tell principals and teachers to follow the Education Act wherever there’s a conflict between that act and the collective bargaining act.

‘We are maintaining the safety’: N.S. Teachers Union

The union says the memo wrongly implies that teachers and principals will be “stepping over the line” while they work-to-rule.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Liette Doucet told reporters Friday the work-to-rule mandated by the union is legal and complies with the Education Act. “The minister is implying that we are not following the education act in the sense we are no providing for the health and safety of our students, we are in fact doing that,” Doucet said.

“We are maintaining the safety, safety is our number one priority for our students and we don’t believe that student safety is in jeopardy at all.”

She also said the memo to teachers fails to note that the ultimate responsibility for student safety lies with school superintendents. And says the union gave more notice on their job action than required by law to make sure school boards could adjust.

Because the union will be in a legal strike position on Monday, Doucet said there will be no repercussion for teachers when they work-to-rule.

Casey declined an interview request and her department didn’t answer questions put to it by Global News.

Read the memo below:

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