When I went to teacher’s college, it was drilled into us that, as teachers, we would have a tremendous amount of responsibility because we were “in loco parentis” or “in place of parents.”
Now, what exactly does that mean? To me, at that time, it meant that teachers (under the authority of their principal) were to be responsible for the safety of their students in their classrooms or when they were on supervision in the hallways or the school yard. In fact, we were told we were legally responsible during such times of supervision. It was that serious an issue.
However, times seem to have changed so slowly, few may have noticed that “in loco parentis” no longer seems to apply. While I know all school boards and principals do their utmost to protect the children and youth in their care, and most classroom teachers really do watch out for their students, parents need to know what is happening.
For example, as Moira MacDonald wrote in yesterday’s Toronto Sun:
“One of the big problems principals face — and parents should pay attention to — is supervision at school. Principals are ultimately responsible for keeping kids in school safe — which can number from a few dozen to a couple of thousand. But their tools for doing that have been gradually slipping through their fingers. For years, there have been growing concerns a cut to the number of staff in schools, and teacher contracts that have negotiated down the amount of time teachers can be asked to supervise students outside their normal classrooms, are making public schools less and less safe.”
Now, what exactly does MacDonald mean by “negotiate away the amount of time teachers can be asked to supervise students?” When I was teaching at the elementary level back in the mid to late 1970’s, I taught in an urban school that was just on the boundaries of a fairly large city — meaning most students were bussed.
Sixteen or seventeen teachers had to share: morning bus duty (inside and out), morning recess, lunch hall duty, lunch outside duty, afternoon recess and end of the day bus duty. And, that was tripled because there were the primary, junior and intermediate yards and three separate locations within the school. Which meant that teachers had some kind of duty every single day.
Yet, last year, the Ontario Principals Council had to hold a rare press conference to ask for standards in school supervision. In response, did they get assurances from the teachers’ union (ETFO) out of concern for students safety or supervision? No, instead it was a how dare you make “an unwarranted attack on collective agreements” response. Pardon me?
As MacDonald says: “Next time you’re wondering where a teacher union’s ultimate priorities are — representing its members’ interests or students’ — remember that.” In loco parentis? Hardly. If parents decided to reduce their supervision, it would be called neglect and endangerment and they would lose custody of their children.
If classroom teachers don’t agree with this reduced responsibility and care, why do they vote to accept such agreements? Or, has it not occurred to them, that they have, over time, essentially been forfeiting their right to be “in loco parentis” or in “a parent’s place.”
Attention parents — find out what the situation is in your children’s school. Find out how supervision is organized and managed?