Conflict with family has parents rallying for teacher

Officials from the Cowichan Valley School District were unable to offer much to a quiet group of people who rallied outside the district offices Wednesday, March 26, who were hoping to see quicker action to solve an ongoing problem at Discovery Elementary School.

A conflict with a family over religious accommodation has resulted in a popular teacher being out of the classroom and, because the names of everyone involved must, by law, remain confidential, officials were tight-lipped about what is being done to resolve what parents say is an increasingly difficult situation.

Adam Lossing, one of a small group of official spokespeople at the rally, made it clear he was only speaking as a parent and not for the school’s parent advisory group.

He said parents were feeling frustration about the district’s handling of a situation that has dragged on for several years.

"We could be wrong but it does seem like there’s poor communication around this particular issue," he said. "To be fair to the school district I believe they are working hard on this. It’s not like they are doing nothing. It’s the perception of the other parents that they are not being served by those efforts.

"An awful lot of resources have gone towards this family and the parents at this point are saying: that’s enough," Lossing said.

Asked for a comment just before the rally, Schools Superintendent Joe Rhodes said, "I wish it wasn’t happening. It will inflame an already highly emotional situation."

From the district’s standpoint, there is a dispute resolution process underway but he could not give an end-date for it.

"We hope that will be soon. We’re trying to work with the union and the teacher. I don’t have an easy answer on this," he said.

Trustee Mike McKay also made a statement at the board of education meeting held later that afternoon, as some members of the rally came inside to the boardroom.

"I’m hoping that we can, with the good work of staff and of the external resources involved, that we can find a positive way through this," he said.

"I appreciate that there are emotions and passions and concerns and rights that are certainly central to this right now. My position has to be one clear step removed from it," McKay said, adding that the district would be in "vigorous pursuit of a resolution."

After the meeting concluded, he also gave them a chance to ask questions, even though answering them mainly meant repeating that the district is indeed working on what is a confidential situation.

Some of the parents took the opportunity to ask for counselling for upset children and to call for firm timeline for a solution.