Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WSD excludes lap-dance media clippings

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WINNIPEG School Division's official secrets policy over personnel matters extends to refusing to provide its school trustees with copies of newspaper stories about personnel issues.

You read that correctly -- WSD won't supply the school board that governs the $329-million-a-year division with news clippings about the scandal involving two Churchill High School teachers suspended for a sexually suggestive lap dance in the school gym three weeks ago.

There's been not a syllable of mention about the teachers in the last two media clipping packages that trustees receive from the division, maverick trustee Mike Babinsky said Tuesday.

"In the last couple of weeks, there's a lot of media clips missing -- absolutely nothing to do with lap dancing," Babinsky said.

Babinsky said during his 15 years as a trustee, he's regularly received newspaper clippings on all stories both positive and negative, as well as some transcripts of radio and TV coverage. "It would bring everyone up to speed on education matters in Winnipeg and Manitoba," he said.

Now, said Babinsky, it appears that "We're only going to get the good stuff, all the bad stuff (is) omitted."

A division official read a statement Tuesday, then declined to answer questions about the newspaper clippings: "The division follows normal procedures of due process in dealing with personnel matters. An investigation is underway, and information will be provided as appropriate," said the official.

"I'll raise that issue Monday" at the next board meeting, Babinsky said.

Trustees met for half an hour Monday to pass their budget, but did not discuss the teachers' situation.

Meanwhile, their union says that two Churchill High teachers suspended for performing a simulated lap dance three weeks ago could learn their fate this week.

The Winnipeg Teachers Association says there's word senior bureaucrats might conclude their investigation and reach a decision. If the bureaucrats reach a verdict, trustees next meet Monday evening. It is division procedure for staff to be informed if WSD is recommending discipline.

"They're going to be meeting this week and deciding where they're going to be heading," says WTA president Dave Najduch.

Teachers Chrystie Fitchner and Adeil Ahmed have been suspended with pay for performing a lewd dance, including simulated oral sex, at a school spirit event in the Churchill gym.

Two videos shot by students and posted on YouTube appear to have been removed from the website, but not before being viewed around the world.

Brandon University labour relations Prof. Alan Levy, who said he is also an arbitrator and mediator, said WSD could offer incentives for the two to resign, or could fire them and let an arbitrator take the political and public heat if they ultimately decide to put the teachers back to work.

"They could work out an arrangement whereby the teachers could resign, under confidential conditions" such as being paid through June 30, Levy said. "The teachers would have no scar (of being fired), about going to work in another school division."

The division could also fire the teachers, knowing the union would take it to arbitration, Levy said. "Politically, that puts them in a good position.

"They may allow the arbitrator to take the blame," should the arbitrator rule that the teachers can keep their jobs, he said.

Levy said he's surprised WSD is letting its human resources department conduct the investigation. "If the board was shrewd, they'd hire a top external labour lawyer to investigate," he said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2010 B1

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