A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice refused Friday to get involved in telling a school board how to draft policy.
“I am being asked, in effect, to enter the policy world?” asked Justice Donald Burrage, who made it clear he had a problem doing so.
“How far down the policy rabbit hole do I go?”
Burrage rendered his decision that he would not exercise the court’s discretion to give direction in the case of St. John’s teacher Michelle Stamp, who about three years ago filed a harassment complaint to her employer against co-workers.
He said it’s not up to the court to tell the board what should or should not be in its policy, which it has been given the power to draft by the legislature.
The original complaint by Stamp has morphed into a drawn out dispute between the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association (NLTA) — the union that represents teachers — and the former Eastern School District, which was absorbed into the larger Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
Burrage acknowledged concern expressed by NLTA lawyer Ian Patey about how long the matter has taken to resolve and gave Patey and school board lawyer Ian Wallace a decision on the spot Friday with written reasons to come later.
“Delays are not in anybody’s interest,” Burrage said.
It’s now up to the board to hear Stamp’s appeal of how it handled her complaint.
According to court documents, Stamp filed a complaint through the district's respectful workplace policy in 2010 against two colleagues at Gonzaga High School, where she taught French, as well as the principal and another employee.
The board did not pursue the complaint against the principal and one of the employees, according to court documents.
The conduct of one of Stamp's colleagues was concluded to warrant an apology.
Contending the investigations were flawed, Stamp appealed the decisions. But in September 2012, the school district told Stamp the appeal would not proceed, according to Patey, who was instead advised by the board to file a court application.
Stamp sought direction from the court on how to proceed. She has contended to the court that the board’s appeal policy is flawed and that the district left key information out of the process.
On Friday, Patey told the court that the report on the investigation to the board’s executive council — which will hear the appeal — did not contain all statements and notes that existed on the matter.
Patey said Stamp obtained additional material through access to information legislation that he said wasn’t in the “official” report.
The material included a board investigator’s notes that made subjective commentary on Stamp possibly being paranoid. There were also references to potential witnesses to incidents that Stamp had identified. Patey therefore exp-ressed concern about the appeal being a rubber-stamp exercise.
Wallace told Burrage that the school board investigator used discretion on what to put in what he deemed a comprehensive report and said that same report was given to both the executive council and Stamp.
Patey said that a psychologist’s report on Stamp indicated the board process has stressed Stamp — she was a full-time teacher at the time she filed the complaints and is now on long-term disability.
Depending on the outcome of the board appeal process, the matter could one day wind up in court again.