EDITORIAL: Teachers’ role needs defining

NANAIMO – Ruling needs to clarify when teachers are covered by WorkSafeB.C. and when they’re not.

A recent ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal highlights the need to clearly define when teachers are covered by WorkSafeB.C. and when they’re not.

A social studies teacher in a B.C. school district submitted a claim to WorkSafe in 2011 for a wrist injury sustained during a lunchtime staff-versus-students softball game It was intended as a harmonious staff/student interaction.

The appeal tribunal rejected the teacher’s claim for several reasons, including that playing the ball game with students was not part of his regular duties, he was not instructed by the employer to carry out the activity, his participation was voluntary, and he was injured during his lunch break.

The decision is being appealed.

This case has created a grey area for teachers regarding what is considered part of their job. While not part of the work description, it’s generally expected that teachers take part in events, activities and clubs outside the instructional hours of the school day.

Who’s to say a softball game at lunch time doesn’t provide an educational opportunity for students? At the very least, interaction with a teacher can build a positive experience for students outside of the classroom, hopefully encouraging further interest in studies.

To accomplish that, teachers need to know what their role is and be provided with clear guidelines of what activities are covered under the umbrella of ‘work.’

The amount of volunteer work by teachers was evident last spring when they implemented a temporary ban on extracurricular activities, forcing the cancellation of some activities.

If the ruling is upheld, it could reduce a teacher’s willingness to continue volunteering time for students.

That would be a shame, as that lesson would be far from instructive.