Parents look to sue councils over lockout

As the dispute enters its third week, parents and kids are running out of patience. Meanwhile, some students may not have enough hours to graduate

April 15th, 2013 1:11 pm| by admin

Parents across the country are looking into the possibility of dragging their local councils into court over the ongoing teacher lockout.

“We have started to receive inquiries from parents asking if there is anything they can do via the courts,” Mette With Hagensen, the head of parents' group Skole og Forældre, told Newspaq. “They want to know if they can sue their local councils or the state for not fulfilling their compulsory education and supervisory duties.”

According to Hagensen, parents are reporting that their children are beginning to miss going to school and the comfort of their daily routines. 

The teachers' unions are also hearing from exasperated parents.

“The messages are beginning to make their way to me, and I am taking them seriously,” Anders Bondo Christensen, the head negotiator for the teachers’ union Danmarks Lærerforening (DLF), told Newspaq.

A representative from the local government association KL, which along with the national government is preventing teachers from going to work, said that those parents looking to sue are on a fool’s errand.

“The councils will provide children with the education that they need, if not right now, then at a later date, so it is hard to see where the parents have a case,” said KL official Lene Møller.

Schools can add the hours lost to students in grades 0 to 8 into next year’s curriculum, but students currently set to graduate from ninth grade may well wind up short of the legally-mandated number of school hours.

When the lockout was first enacted, many expected it to run for two weeks and teachers said that they would be able to fit the hours in. But that now appears less likely as the lockout drags into its third week with no end in sight.

"I would think that more or less all ninth grade classes are now below the minimum number of hours," Jeanne Jacobsen, the head of the Copenhagen branch of Skolelederforeningen, a union representing headteachers, told Politiken newspaper.

Teachers in other councils are reporting the same problem.

According to KL, the Education Ministry will ultimately decide what councils should do if they cannot meet the minimum requirements. The ministry said it is the councils' responsibility to make sure that the number of required hours is met.  

Møller said that KL hopes that the ninth graders' missing hours could be made up by students taking extra afternoon classes once the teachers were allowed to work, but that suggestion was not well received by DLF.

"It's a bit arrogant to suggest that teachers should just take on extra hours,” Dorte Lange, DLF's vice president, told Politiken.