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This article was published 3/5/2012 (3378 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Selinger government introduced legislation Thursday that would let school boards suspend trustees for up to three months for breaching board rules.
Bill 21 would compel each Manitoba school division to establish a code of conduct for trustees and enable the minister of education to set basic provisions for such codes.
Currently, school boards are limited in their ability to hold trustees accountable for inappropriate conduct.
Education Minister Nancy Allan said Thursday school boards requested the legislation. She said the province and the Manitoba School Boards Association have worked on it for the past six months.
The new law would require school trustees to "act with integrity and in a manner that maintains the dignity of the office."
Codes of conduct would require trustees to "respect others who may have differing opinions" and not reveal any personal or confidential information acquired on the job.
Allan said the bill is the result of concerns some trustees have broken confidentiality rules and leaked sensitive information in the past. She said there was no single incident that prompted the bill.
"Quite often, school trustees have discussions about personnel issues, and it's important those kind of personnel issues are kept confidential," she said.
Robert Rivard, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association, said some school divisions have no formal code of conduct or even guidelines for trustees. The new law would set out minimum standards for all, he said.
The bill outlines several possible punishments for trustees who step out of line. They include being censured, barred from attending all or part of a school board or committee meeting or having school board duties and privileges pulled for up to three months.
"We wouldn't see this happening very often," Rivard said of such discipline measures.
But he said school boards currently have no recourse when a trustee steps out of line.
"The way it is right now, a trustee can go out and make public anything they want and there's really nothing the... school board can do about it," he said.
Rivard said the intent of the new legislation is not to keep matters from the public.
"My own stance on that, and the stance of MSBA, is that if it is public information, it should be in the public."
The bill sets out an appeal mechanism. An adjudicator who hears an appeal may vary or set aside a sanction imposed upon a trustee. The school division would pay the cost of an adjudication.
Tory Cameron Friesen said he finds it ironic the NDP introduced the bill at the same time Premier Greg Selinger refuses to punish Health Minister Theresa Oswald for breaching the election law. "There's a disconnect here between what this bill says and what government is doing."
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.