Educator Rights and Duties

AuthorDavid C. Young
Educator Rights and Duties
David C Young
Eective educator s possess an understa nding of the system i n which they
work. They are wel l aware that schooling is a n enterprise charged wit h a
serious respons ibility: prov iding an avenue a s well as a mean s for teach-
ing and lear ning. As a resu lt, each year f rom September unt il late June
children of ap propriate age from across the c ountry congregate i n schools
where teachers tr y to provide for each s tudent in thei r classes a n appro-
priate education. From t he school buses that shuttle ch ildren to and from
their homes, to the loc al communit y school, to the teachers and support
sta employed by scho ol boards, to the policy ma kers enacting di rectives
that drive t he system, publ ic education is governe d by many competi ng
forces. To the lay person, most of these f orces often appear h idden, and,
in fact, ma ny teachers are a lso oblivious to them. Yet, good teachers rec-
ognize t hat public education does not e xist in a va cuum and is, i ndeed,
context dependent on sever al factors: these include but ar e not limited to
legal and polic y dimensions.
It is neither assu med nor expected that teacher s or administrat ors be
lawyers. However, it is i ncumbent upon educators t o have a healthy re-
spect and apprec iation for the manner in wh ich the law has an impact on
what they can a nd cannot do in schools. Thi s chapter will discu ss the dy-
namics of educat ion in Canada with par ticular reference to the lega l and
policy dimensions.
84 / David C Young
Most Canadi an educators are employed by the public school system. The
genesis for thi s system, in wh ich enrolment is open, is based on t he prin-
ciples of public fund ing and of provi ncial control, a nd dates back to Con-
federation. In fac t, the legitimacy of th is system is found in sect ion 93 of
the 1867 British North Am erica Act.1 Section 93 read s as follows: “In a nd
for each Provi nce the Legislature m ay exclusively makes Laws i n relation
to Education.” As Bezeau points out , section 93 resulted in education be-
coming an une quivocal and exclusive prov incial responsibi lity.2 It should
also be noted th at although con stitutiona l power in the ter ritories was
initia lly vested in t he federal gover nment by vir tue of the Const itution
Act, 1871,3 much, i f not all, of t his power has since been delegated to t he
governments of t he Yukon and Northwest Territories, a s well as Nunavut. 4
Therefore, since Conf ederation, educat ion is and continues to remain a
responsibil ity of the provincia l and territoria l governments.
Because Cana da is a vast country, cha racterized by common element s
among the provi nces and territor ies, each provi nce or territory a lso lays
claim to its ow n unique hi story and c ulture. T he provinces and ter ritor-
ies each have a depar tment or min istry of education, which deve lops
policies that give struct ure to, and at the sa me time regu late, the public
school system. T he primar y vehicle th rough which t he provincia l and
territoria l governments give str ucture to the public school syst em within
their respec tive jurisdiction s is by means of a statute wit h a name such as
the Education Act or P ublic Schools Act. This Act, which v aries based on the
province or terr itory, can outline issues s uch as the rights a nd duties of stu-
dents, parents , teachers, and admini strators. As an example, sec tion 17 of
the British Colum bia School Act sp ecies the responsibi lities of a teacher as
including a mong other thi ngs “designin g, supervi sing and assessing edu-
cational progr ams and in struc ting, asse ssing and eva luating i ndividua l
students and groups of students.”5 Other issue s that are of ten addressed
include duration of t he school year and the esta blishment of school board s.
In addition to suc h an Act, provi ncial governments routine ly pass regul a-
1 Later name d the Constitution A ct, 1867 (UK), 30 & 31 Vic t, c 3, reprinted i n RSC
1985, App II, No 5.
2 Lawrence M Bezeau, Educat ional Administrat ion for Canadian Teachers, 2d ed (To-
ronto: Copp Clark , 1995) at 18.
3 (UK), 34–35 Vict, c 28, s 4.
4 Forrest W Parkay e t al, Becoming a Teacher, 3d Canadi an ed (Toronto: Pearson,
2009) at 116.
5 RSBC 1996, c 412.

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