External Investigation Finds Bullying and Harassment Existed at VSB

Board & Committees, Media Release

Media Release

(Vancouver – March 3, 2017) The external investigation report into allegations of harassment and bullying at the Vancouver School Board has determined that bullying and harassment occurred and that a toxic work environment existed at the school board.

In October 2016, following a complaint from the president of the BC School Superintendents Association, VSB engaged an investigator to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of harassment and bullying. Roslyn Goldner was commissioned by the then Acting Superintendent to conduct the investigation. Today the Executive Summary of Ms. Goldner’s report is being released.

“I was deeply distressed when I read Ms. Goldner’s report ­– it was one of the most difficult things I have ever read,” said Dianne Turner, Official Trustee. “Harassment of any kind is not acceptable in the workplace and absolutely will not be permitted at the Vancouver School Board or in any of our schools. It is unacceptable that the senior staff were not provided a safe and respectful environment.”

WorkSafeBC has reviewed Ms. Goldner’s report and issued an inspection report, which confirms that the report from Ms. Goldner met their criteria and is compliant with WorkSafeBC policy requirements. This inspection report contains orders requiring VSB to adhere to its policies on harassment and bullying.

VSB’s Interim Secretary Treasurer, Guy Bonnefoy, said that the district anticipates receiving requests for access to the report and is taking steps to expedite its release as soon as possible on receipt of those requests.

“The Board has consulted with legal advisors to ensure that the release process for the report is appropriate and compliant with privacy laws,” said Bonnefoy. “We are aware that the public has an interest in the outcome of the investigation, and we expect to receive access requests for the report.  We are proactively preparing a redacted copy of the report to ensure that we can expedite the release of the report when those requests are received.”

“We are taking proactive steps to address the underlying systemic governance problems and are focused on ensuring a safe, respectful working environment at the Vancouver School Board,” said Turner. “My focus as the Official Trustee is to ensure the governance model moving forward leads to the most effective management of the district because that is what our staff, students and their parents expect and deserve.”

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For media inquiries contact:
communications@vsb.bc.ca

Attachments:

 

Backgrounder – Timeline of Events

Sept. 25

Secretary-Treasurer Russell Horswill commences indefinite leave.

Sept. 27

Superintendent Scott Robinson commences indefinite leave.

Sept. 29

VSB Trustees appoints Steve Cardwell as Acting Superintendent and Rick Krowchuk as Acting Secretary Treasurer. Entire senior management team now on idefinite leave.

Sept. 29

Minister Bernier forwards the letter from the president of the BC School Superintendents Association (BCSSA), which outlines concerns for the welfare of VSB members of the BCSSA, to WorkSafeBC “because of its jurisdiction regarding bullying and harassment in the workplace.”

Oct. 3

WorkSafeBC rules require VSB to investigate the allegations of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Oct. 12

Steve Cardwell confirms the engagement of Roslyn Goldner of Goldner Law Corporation to conduct an independent investigation, in accordance with the district’s Harassment in the Workplace policy and WorkSafeBC’s requirements for employer investigations.

October

WorkSafeBC begins its own investigation of the allegations at VSB.

Oct. 17

Minister Bernier replaces the Vancouver School Board trustees with Dianne Turner as the Official Trustee. The Board was replaced for failing to pass a balanced budget.

Oct. 18

Acting Superintendent Steve Cardwell and Acting Secretary Treasurer Rick Krowchuk depart the VSB.

Nov. 3

Trustee Dianne Turner appoints John Lewis as Acting Superintendent and Guy Bonnefoy as Interim Secretary-Treasurer.

January

Superintendent Scott Robinson returns to work on a gradual re-entry. All senior staff now back at work.

Feb. 20

Ms. Goldner submits her external investigation report to VSB.

Feb. 21

WorkSafeBC issues an order to the VSB to provide the Goldner Report for inspection.

Mar. 2

WorkSafeBC issues an inspection report, which confirms that the report from Ms. Goldner met their criteria and the findings are aligned with WorkSafeBC’s investigation. This inspection report contains orders requiring VSB to adhere to its policies on harassment and bullying.

Mar. 3

VSB provides the Executive Summary of the Goldner Report to complainants and respondents, and releases the Executive Summary publicly.

Backgrounder – Board Governance

Vancouver School Board Harassment in the Workplace Policy

The policy states that the Board of School Trustees recognizes and is committed to the right of all employees to work in an environment free from harassment or bullying.  To this extent, the Board will not tolerate any conduct that is classified as harassment or bullying and will make every reasonable effort to ensure that all employees are treated in a fair and equitable manner.

Additional information is available at https://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-policy/gbcba-harassment-workplace.

British Columbia School Trustees Association

The following information is extracted from the British Columbia School Trustees Association’s trustee development program titled “Good Governance for Boards of Education.” More detailed information is available at www.bcsta.org/content/good-governance-boards-education.

Overview of Education Board Governance
“Trustees as individuals must balance their role as a representative of the constituents who elected them with their role as a member of a governing Board which is the Board of Education’s decision-making body. The elected Board itself maintains a balancing act between local community interests, the broader provincial interest, and the legislated environment within which the Board operates.”

“The elected Board is responsible for the success of the organization in terms of its purpose. It does this by providing oversight, direction setting and decision making through a governance process which includes defining roles, relationships, structures and processes.”

The Board and Superintendent
“The Board and the Superintendent of Schools are partners together in leading a school system that is the heart of the community, and it is critical that they have a positive, productive, mutually-supportive working relationship. This relationship unites the wisdom of the electorate with the expertise and advice of trained professionals.”

The Board and Senior Staff
“The other non-voting members of the school district governing team are the Superintendent, Secretary Treasurer and sometimes Directors and the executive assistant. Trustees need to remember that no one trustee, not even the Chair, has the authority to direct the Superintendent or other staff. The Superintendent reports to the whole Board.”

Education Board Roles
“In order to be effective in focusing the organization to be successful, the elected Board plays four broad roles:”

  • Fiduciary
    • “The elected Board of Education has the responsibility to competently protect the interests, image and credibility of the Board of Education, to ensure its financial viability, and to act in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and policies governing the Board or enacted by the government.”
    • “The Superintendent is the sole employee who reports directly to the elected board. Assignment of duties to district staff flow through the Superintendent as does information from district staff to the trustees.”
  • Strategic
    • “The elected Board’s strategic role relates to the larger moral purpose of publicly-funded education. It is about having a vision and planning purposefully to ensure that the children within the Board’s jurisdiction will have every opportunity to succeed in school and in life, and to give their parents confidence that schools provide a caring and safe environment for their children.”
  • Innovative
    • “This role calls on the elected Board to exercise creativity and innovation so that the Board of Education, as well as the whole school system, can maintain or increase their relevance in a constantly changing environment. It involves a long-term perspective…”
  • Societal
    • “This role requires a deep and sincere commitment to collaboration, cooperation and ethics – first among trustees, in order to establish the elected Board of Education as a body focused on its place in society, and then in a larger context, to actively engage with the community and with other groups and organizations that share a common purpose.”

Code of Conduct
“Some Boards of Education choose to establish trustee codes of conduct. Trustee codes of conduct are not required under the BC School Act. A Code of Conduct serves to define acceptable behaviours, clarify the rules of civil engagement, promote high standards of practice, and provide a framework for professional conduct and responsibilities. This would be incorporated in Board policy. Codes of Conduct generally cover such issues as:

  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Confidentiality
  • Responsibility
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Relationships”

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For media inquiries contact:
communications@vsb.bc.ca