The Lambton Kent District School Board won’t say whether a Sarnia trustee faces disciplinary action for making anti-vaccination statements while schools contend with rising COVID-19 cases.
Dave Douglas posted a series of comments this month critical of masks, vaccines, and the government’s controversial vaccine passport system. He also targeted the Premier himself.
“Vaccine Passports are the most evil and totalitarian thing I have heard of in my life,” wrote Douglas, who represents Sarnia and Point Edward schools.
“I can’t wait to sue the Province of Ontario for violating the Ontario Health Consent Act and the Charter,” read another post. “Doug Ford is an evil dictator that must immediately resign.
“Governments want to vaccinate all employees, make them wear masks all day, and businesses still treat them like [expletive] and they wonder why no one wants to work,” wrote Douglas, who identified himself on Twitter as a ‘lover of freedom’ and staunch supporter of Maxime Bernier’s Peoples’ Party of Canada.
Douglas did not respond when reached for comment.
His online posts were flagged by bio-statistician Ryan Imgrund, who tracks COVID-19 data with a focus on school risk in Ontario.
“Well this is embarrassing,” Imgrund said about the trustee before Douglas blocked his account. “Anti-lockdown. Anti-mask. Anti-vaccination.”
This week, 18 schools in the public board and eight in the Catholic board reported active cases among staff or students, including an outbreak declared at Gregory A. Hogan in Sarnia on Sept. 20.
That ranked the two boards fourth and fifth worst in the province for percentage of schools with at least one case, according to Imgrund.
Randy Campbell, who chairs the public board of trustees, issued a statement.
“The Lambton Kent District School Board is aware of the comments posted on a personal account of a Trustee,” he said. “We understand that elected Trustees may at times express individual, personal opinions which may or may not align with the positions, priorities or actions of the Board of Trustees.
“Whenever Trustees are communicating on behalf of the Board, they are expected to follow the Communications and Social Media Policy, Regulation and Administrative Procedure.”
Failing to exercise professional discretion, even on personal social media accounts, “may result in disciplinary action by the Board,” the document states.
Douglas was elected in 2014 at the age of 31, narrowly edging Ian Cryer, an educator and former president of the local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
Meanwhile, the education directors at both the Lambton Kent and St. Clair Catholic school boards said they’re pleased to see rising vaccination rates under the Education Ministry’s new immunization disclosure policy.
At Lambton Kent schools, which Douglas helps oversee, 85.7% of employees and trustees have attested they are fully vaccinated. The number is 86.9% at the Catholic board.
Schools boards must update their attestation summary report monthly.
“We know that those rates are going to increase as some of our staff are in between first and second doses or are in the 14-day waiting period after the second, before they can state that they are fully vaccinated,” said Lambton Kent director John Howitt.
Some 124 individuals still hadn’t submitted an attestation form, which includes those on the occasional list and maternity leave.
Six individuals from the public board and five at the Catholic have provided documented medical reasons for not being vaccinated.
Catholic director Scott Johnson said about 200 board employees, mostly part-time or casual, had yet to submit attestation forms.
“Very shortly, those casual staff will be temporarily frozen,” he said. “They won’t be able to come back to work until they complete the attestation process and then the follow up.”
Teachers who choose not to be vaccinated must undergo rapid testing and verify negative results at least twice a week.
“To what extent some staff will continue to do the negative rapid tests — I think time will tell,” he added.
“We would encourage increased vaccinated rates both in our staff as well as within the community” said Howitt, noting the local vaccination rate for those aged 12 to 17 lags behind the provincial average.
“We are doing our best to ensure that our schools remain open,” he said.