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'Lax discipline' leads to lawsuit;Briefing International

Canada

The school board of Vernon, British Columbia, is attempting to quash a $10 million (pound;4.2m) lawsuit brought by a former teacher who claims the board's lax attitude towards discipline made it impossible for him to do his job.

Teacher Dennis Roberts said the stress of dealing with a school administration that refused to discipline unruly children, or support his efforts to do so, affected his health and mental well-being, and forced him to resign.

He has produced information about more than 75 incidents - including occasions on which he was sworn at in front of his class. "My instructions were, 'Don't discipline, don't bring the kid to the office, don't buzz the office and don't put the kid out of the classroom," Mr Roberts said.

Board officials have refused to comment, as has the minister of education. Part of what Mr Roberts's suit asks for has, however, been instituted.

A month after receiving the writ, the Vernon secondary school, which Mr. Roberts describes as "hell", instituted a new code of conduct with clearly-defined consequences for verbally abusing teachers.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, the government announced a province-wide code of conduct. "Swear at a teacher, you get suspended. Hit a teacher, you're expelled," says premier Mike Harris.

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