The Vancouver School Board has been slammed for its toxic work culture after an internal investigation found trustees bullied staff, making some fear for their jobs.
While the full report has not been made public, the summary said members of the board routinely engaged in “uncivil, disrespectful and rude” conduct with one another.
It also said members of the senior management team faced direct bullying and personal harassment, creating a “culture of fear” in which they felt their job security was at risk.
“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to read,” said official trustee Dianne Turner, who replaced the former trustees who were fired by education minister Mike Bernier.
“I became quite emotional having to read about the incidents described in the report,” she added.
The summary drew attention to one incident in particular which occurred when plans were announced to close 11 schools in the district and it became clear that a number of senior managers would be made redundant.
“I find the allegations that certain trustees ‘threw the staff under the bus’ an apt descriptor of the trustees’ conduct,” lawyer and investigator Roslyn Goldner wrote.
“I accept the evidence that certain trustees’ public attack of the work of senior staff related to the school closure process undermined and publicly embarrassed and humiliated the superintendent and the senior management team.”
In response, a number of former trustees have released a joint statement denying any involvement in workplace bullying and criticising officials for publishing the summary without including any details.
“We treated all VSB staff with respect and courtesy and we did not participate in or witness workplace bullying or harassment,” read the statement. “We are concerned to hear the findings of the report and agree that workplace bullying and harassment are unacceptable.”
WorkSafeBC also said it reviewed Goldner’s report and concluded the school board’s harassment and bullying policies were in compliance with its requirements.