TORONTO — A group representing Ontario high-school principals says job action taken by teachers to protest a wage freeze and benefit cuts could be jeopardizing student safety.
Ken Arnott, of the Ontario Principals' Council, said that job action, which the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) began Monday, could put students at risk.
The union has advised its members to refuse assigned supervision duties, which could lead to an increase in bullying, vandalism and behaviour issues, Arnott warned.
"We know through data we have collected that when supervision isn't as strong as it should be or as visible as it should be, then the problems increase," he said.
The union has also advised teachers not to administer standardized testing, attend staff meetings or meet with parents outside of school hours.
OSSTF president Ken Coran issued a statement early Monday saying teachers were taking the job action after negotiations with the province broke down.
"OSSTF is open to further discussions at both the provincial and local levels; however, at this time, no further talks are scheduled," he said.
Teachers at 20 public boards across the province are part of the job action.
Ryan Bird, spokesman with the Toronto District School Board, said they are monitoring the situation.
"Coverage and supervision is a concern," he said. "We're taking look at that. In the end, student safety and the integrity of the core learning day are our top priorities at this point."
Education Minister Laurel Broten released a statement defending Bill 115, which was passed in September and imposed the salary freeze and benefit cuts.
She said it's "very disappointing that these strike actions will put students and families in the middle."
QMI Agency readers were divided over the teachers' move.
"I think teachers are ridiculous," wrote reader Cheryl McBride. "They have the best holidays of any career and probably make twice as much as most of us working 40 hours a week."
But Dave Lambert, who said his two daughters are both in high school, praised the educators.
"The teachers at our school do a great job and volunteer their time after work so that my daughters could play field hockey and basketball," he said in an e-mail. "I think it's great that they volunteer their time this way without recognition."
SIDE: Are you a parent or student who is affected by high school teachers' job action? If so, we would like to hear from you. Call QMI Agency reporter Shawn Jeffords at 416-947-2284 or email him at email@example.com