A decade long battle by the B.C. Liberals and their school board allies to ban political expression in schools has come to an absurd conclusion in Prince Rupert. (“Dr. Seuss quote too political,” April 26).
School district administration in 2002 tried to suppress teachers from posting material on school bulletin boards and from communicating to parents at interviews. This material focused on loss of funding and increased pressures on classrooms. The matter eventually was heard by the B.C. Appeal Court, which ruled that the directions were unconstitutional and breached the fundamental freedom of expression rights.
Madame Justice Huddart stated in the majority decision “... teachers cannot be 'silent members of society' in light of the importance of a 'free and robust public discussion of public issues' to democratic society (at 466-67). The school boards cannot prevent teachers from expressing opinions just because they step onto school grounds. School grounds are public property where political expression must be valued and given its place.”
During the current dispute, teachers across B.C. have faced increased threats of disciplinary action for sporting buttons as benign as “Proud to be a Teacher” or for protesting cuts to public education to Minister Abbott during his school visits.
Huddart also noted that justifying as reasonable the breach of basic expression rights has to be ”subjected to a 'searching degree of scrutiny'” and not taken lightly. It is unlikely that the actions taken by school board administration under the watch of the B.C. Liberals has met that standard. Also unlikely is that attitudes will change while the B.C. Liberals continue to demonstrate the willingness to ignore constitutional rights.
It must be stressed, though, how perilous it is for a democratic society to permit governments in a parliamentary system to act contrary to “declared and received laws ... interpreted by known authorized judges.” (John Locke).