Posts Tagged ‘arbitration’

The final day of my arbitration was held on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 in Coquitlam, British Columbia. I was very impressed with the lawyer for the union (for ME!) as he presented the closing arguments for our case. It was clear that he had developed personal respect for me, a deep and persoanl respect for the environmental issues surrounding the case and ultimately a fine argument in law.

The experience, although harrowing over the years of waiting ,  was indeed INTERESTING and  if nothing else, good or bad,  SCHOOL DISTRICT 36  vs BC TEACHERS’ FEDERATION  ELAINE WILLIS -DUTY TO ACCOMMODATE will ultimately set a precedent in arbitration law.

And my lawyer truly did such a fine job in the end. The professionalism I couldn’t see at all in the beginning shone through in spades.  The beginning of the journey was extremely  rough – he didn’t, I feel, see me as a person – didn’t see past my disabilities. In the end he saw more than that. In the end there was, I believe, mutual respect. He recognized that I am a teacher and quoted me several times. I was touched. His words were sincere, eloquent and heartfelt – and if I taught one person about the environmental impact of chemicals as opposed to my need for a fragrance free workplace, then I did a good thing! So I have to be happy in the end, whatever the outcome.

The battles for those of us with disabilities, and especially for those of us with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, are huge. There are many false beliefs about our abilities and the nature of our disabilities. The truth remains that we are people, to be treated as all people, with dignity, equality and respect. We are not to be shut away in our homes as society continues to demand of us.

Education is enlightenment. I WILL CONTINUE TO BE A TEACHER!  This process may enable me to do so for a living as well!

I was allowed to present this “STATEMENT” at the second day of my arbitration proceedings. I suppose it is wise not to comment publicly until the proceedings are over. We meet again in December, 3 1/2 years after the back to work process began.

BCTFlogo@125I sit before you today to be judged. I placed myself here long ago when I initiated the back to work process in discussion with my doctor in 2006. My life, my health, my vulnerabilities have been shown to you and I welcomed it for one reason…I felt it was my obligation to return to the workplace as my ability to do so had returned.

What is required for a teacher to work? I learned from a brave, young ventilator-dependent quadriplegic hired by a progressive school district (Vancouver) that a strong will and a functional mind were the only requirements. A functional body was not required. If young Johanna Johnson

Johanna

Johanna

can do it, I had every obligation to return to my career.

As a visibly disabled person in a school, I give a message to disabled students. They can aspire. They, too, can have careers in what they perceive to be important jobs dominated by the able-bodied. But more importantly, I educate the able-bodied, because they need to know that I am not a mere curiosity. I am not what they see. I am a human being; a teacher…a more than capable teacher, who, given a few environmental adaptations, can more than function in my chosen career.

Most of the people who wrote letters back and forth, made decisions against my presence had never met me or met me only once. With all we know about brain science and the function of “the interpreter” in filling in details missing in actual interaction, I am in awe of this entire process.

There are many things to applaud in the stacks of paperwork I have studied. Some have learned about the use of green chemicals for cleaning. There have been reports from other schools and institutions on scent-free policies, the new policy for Anaphylactic Safety in Surrey School District. … But according to the BC Lung Association 3 out of 10 people are chemically sensitive and the numbers are growing. I maintain that every living organism is “chemically sensitive” given large enough doses in small enough enclosures. The reactions may just differ. Some people break out in cancer after accumulating the chemicals in body organs. I have the GOOD LUCK of being able to detect small quantities and having the need to escape quickly. There are many indicators in our environment that human beings as a species are succumbing to chemical pollution. Sperm counts in humans are at 50% of what they were a few decades ago. Knowledgeable parents would welcome a chemical free school and soon it will be the norm. This year, already, parents are grappling with the need to buy PVC free school supplies and worrying about all the previous years when they did purchase these products.

(Paragraph that originally appeared here has now been removed at the request of my employer.  It was not meant to upset anyone and was, as far as I know, only a statement of facts. I apologize if anyone found it offensive. removed January 30, 2010)

I sit before you, a human being, flawed, as are we all. My desire…to do what’s right and return to being a contributing member of society despite my disability. I am a teacher.