05/21/2013 08:08 EDT | Updated 07/21/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Teachers' Personal Politics Allowed In Schools, Court Rules

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's teachers are free to express their political opinions through buttons and posters in schools after a B.C. Appeal Court panel sided with the union in a constitutional challenge.

The B.C. Teachers Federation battle began before the 2009 provincial election when teachers in Cranbook, B.C., launched the campaign critical of government education policies.

The union launched a grievance when teachers were told to remove the paraphernalia, and an arbitrator later ruled the directive was a reasonable limit on teachers' rights. The union appealed all the way to the B.C. Appeal Court.

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel set aside the arbitrator's order, saying the law supports teachers in their right of free expression in schools.

Ruling Justice Risa Levine notes the teachers actions were limited and restrained, but says it would be a different story if schools became a political battleground festooned at election time with competing messages.

While Justice Christopher Hinkson agrees with the ruling, he says he has concerns about the extent to which school children should be exposed to one side of any views as part of their educational experience.

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