Support for Members Teaching Controversial Issues

Professional Development 

Discussing controversial issues with students is an important part of social justice, the inquiry process, and building the skills for students to become active, engaged, and critically-minded democratic citizens. The BCTF workshop -Strategies for Discussing Controversial Issues provides practical classroom strategies to discuss controversial issues in a respectful manner. The VSTA will be offering this workshop on April 30th and registration information will be coming soon. 

Professional Autonomy 

Professional autonomy is the freedom for teachers to exercise their professional judgment to meet the diverse needs of students, determine their pedagogical approach, and decide the instructional and assessment strategies to deliver the curriculum. However, teachers should keep in mind that in some instances arbitrators have held that it is reasonable to limit teachers’ speech on certain topics. For example, Arbitrator Burke held that it was permissible for a school district to limit teachers’ expression, when a teacher had expressed their own views about the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA). 

You can read more about professional autonomy here. Professional autonomy language varies with each local collective agreement, and teachers are subject to reasonable direction by the employer within its confines. If members believe they have received a direction from their administrator that is contrary to their professional autonomy rights, they should contact a VSTA table officer. 


All members should feel safe at work and the workplace should be free from discrimination in all its forms. If a member is facing discrimination or intimidation by a parent or community member related to their work as a teacher, the VSTA can file a grievance citing a breach of E.2 of the collective agreement as the employer is obligated to provide a harassment-free workplace.  

Counselling and Mental Health Supports 

It’s crucial to acknowledge that conversations about Israel and Palestine can evoke strong emotions, and that many members have been impacted by anti-semitism and islamophobia, and/or may have personal connections to the area. Here are some resources: