Draft policy could silence teachers

Draft policy could silence teachers The NDP Opposition has called proposed restrictions on Education Department employees making statements to the media "chilling.

The NDP Opposition has called proposed restrictions on Education Department employees making statements to the media “chilling.”

Under the draft guidelines, Yukon’s teachers and other educational staff would not be allowed to make public statements relating to their work without authorization from Education’s communications department.

In addition, if an Education employee were to attend a public meeting where they might be approached by a journalist for a comment, they are expected to contact the communications team in advance for direction.

The NDP raised concern that the policy will stop teachers from speaking out on matters of public debate.

“Will teachers be allowed to speak at public meetings around the same-sex policy, write letters about school calendars, or make their views known about F.H. Collins Secondary School planning?” asked MLA Jim Tredger.

Education Minister Scott Kent responded that the policy is still in draft form, and changes are being made to it based on consultation with the Yukon Teachers’ Association.

The purpose of the document is to help employees understand and navigate communications policies that already exist, said Kent in an interview.

“Those policies have been around for almost 20 years. They were first created in 1994 and are in place in every jurisdiction in Canada and apply to all government employees.”