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No-zero teacher wins employment challenge

September 9, 2014 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

Edmonton Public plans to appeal decision

No-zero opponent Lynden Dorval has won a decision from the Board of Reference, which agreed that the former high school teacher was unfairly dismissed following a dispute over his school’s "no zero" assessment policy.

Dorval, a former science teacher at Ross Shepherd High School with 35 years of experience, waged a highly publicized battle with his school in 2012. After two reprimands over his refusal to implement the school’s new marking system, Dorval was suspended in May 2012. He was dismissed on Sept. 14, 2012.

The Board of Reference decision, handed down Aug. 4 by Gwen Randall, found that the Edmonton Public School Board did not act fairly in its dismissal of Dorval. Her decision noted that two other teachers at the school continued to assign zeroes without penalty. The decision also said that the implementation of the new assessment policy was flawed, as it was not clearly communicated to teachers or students.

Alberta Teachers’ Association co-ordinator of Member Services Brian Andrais is happy with the decision but is cautious to draw any conclusions about its impact at this time.

“The Board of Reference is an important avenue to appeal suspensions or terminations of teachers when school boards have not acted reasonably,” Andrais said. “A Board of Reference decision sets a precedent that can be used to defend other teachers in similar situations, but this matter will not be settled until all appeals are heard.”

The school board has 30 days after the decision is filed to appeal the decision to the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Edmonton Public School Board has said publicly that it plans to appeal the Dorval decision.

In her decision, Randall concluded that Dorval had been treated unfairly due to being singled out for discipline and not being afforded an opportunity to ask questions at his termination hearing.

“This board finds that the teacher was treated unfairly in his dismissal,” the report states, adding that there was “no evidence of deliberate misconduct by the teacher, and certainly no evidence of deliberate repeated misconduct.”

The Board of Reference observed that much of the disagreement stemmed from a personality clash between ­Dorval and the school’s principal, and suggested that other disciplinary measures should have been explored.

“The insistence on unquestioned obedience by the principal and his decision to single out this teacher contributed extensively to the events canvassed in this appeal,” the report states.

Andrais said the ATA advises teachers that they have to comply with lawful orders of their employing school board, which includes directives from principals.

“The best approach is always for teachers and principals to work out professional disagreements in a professional, collegial and respectful manner,” Andrais said.

Dorval’s appeal to the Board of Reference, first filed in October 2012, went forward with financial backing from the Association. Scheduling difficulties prevented the matter from being heard until May 2013, with additional hearings in November 2013 and written submissions received in May and June of 2014.

Since Dorval is now receiving pension benefits, the Board of Reference didn’t order that he be reinstated, but it did order that he be compensated for the full monetary loss suffered—including salary from the date of dismissal through to the date of the decision and appropriate adjustments to his ­pension. ❚

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