Me Yann Bernard.  Photo: Langlois website

Enlarge

Me Yann Bernard. Photo: Langlois website

Installing cameras in classrooms to allow students in isolation to follow their lessons remotely should not be the preferred solution for school service centers.

This is what emerges from a decision rendered by the arbitrator Jean-Guy Ménard. This judgment could set a precedent within school service centers in a context where distance education is more and more widespread.

This recent decision affects an event at the Lac-Témiscamingue School Services Center.

On December 23, arbitrator Jean-Guy Ménard rendered an important arbitration award in connection with teaching in the comodal style.

Co-modal education

The idea is to offer classes simultaneously to students who are in class and to those who have to stay at home for various reasons. The installation of a camera is therefore required for this type of teaching.

The situation at the heart of this decision concerns the Lac-Témiscamingue School Services Center, which had imposed this style of teaching on the teachers of three students who could not come to class due to reasons related to COVID-19.

The teachers affected by this measure and the Ungava and Abitibi-Témiscamingue Teaching Union (SEUAT) filed a grievance claiming that this method violates the Charter of human rights and freedoms.

“To have to manage students in class and students at home at the same time without knowing who is really listening to the course, this is where we invoke respect for privacy,” says Yvan Dallaire, president of SEUAT.

Pending the decision related to the grievance, the School Services Center set up a distance education system for the three students concerned, using non-legally qualified staff and other qualified teachers.

Decision

In his decision, Arbitrator Ménard ruled that the co-modal style did not infringe the privacy rights of teachers.

However, in the case cited, he considers that the teachers were deprived of “fair and reasonable working conditions” since the efforts of the Service Center were focused on means of providing quality education to students without taking into account the work overload that co-modal teaching would cause to professionals who are already affected by the measures linked to the pandemic.

The union welcomes the arbitrator’s decision in the perspective that co-modal education is not the first solution to consider.

“The arbitrator ruled that the School Services Center must consider alternative measures to the co-modal mode before using this mode of teaching. It also recognizes that co-modal education involves an additional investment of energy and focus. He came to recognize that it is an overload of work ”, explains the president of the Union.

The comodal style, according to Arbiter Ménard, must also be accompanied by tight supervision.

A decision that could set a precedent

Langlois Avocats analyzed this decision rendered by arbitrator Ménard. The lawyer specializing in educational law, Me Yann Bernard, believes that the judgment could set a precedent.

“It is certainly a decision that will be taken into account if a comparable situation arises anywhere in an educational institution or a private school. It is certainly a decision which will inspire the possible other courts seized of a comparable question ”, explains the lawyer.

The Lac-Témiscamingue School Services Center declined to comment on the decision.