In only a couple of days, local education headlines have progressed from the slapstick to the serious.

On Wednesday, Citadel High School had to back down from its early rule against the wearing of hoodies in its hallways, drawing chortles from the public.

Yesterday, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a report that argued that teachers’ unions stand in the way of progress in education throughout Canada. The report cited Nova Scotia as one of the worst examples of such obstruction.

No one’s laughing at that conclusion – especially teachers.

The AIMS report did not go so far as to suggest the disbandment of teachers’ unions. AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill took pains to say its arguments were not anti-union.

But the report did recommend prohibition of strikes and lockouts in the school system. A ban on the right to strike deprives any union of its main weapon in a labour dispute. And with the climate in the classroom becoming more unsettled every year, teachers need all the weapons they can get – figuratively, not literally.

In a Vector poll on workplace violence conducted late last year for several Nova Scotia public-service unions, more than half of teachers surveyed said they had experienced intimidation on the job. Almost 40 per cent reported they’d received verbal threats, ridicule or harassment. Twenty-eight per cent said they’d been bullied or subjected to unwelcome teasing. And 12 per cent said they had experienced physical assault.

Teachers are on the front lines of the educational battleground. Their views deserve to be heard, and they need whatever protection a union can offer.

Still, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union should not dismiss the AIMS report’s argument out of hand. If they disagree with its conclusion that unions block progress, their responses should be more than just reflexive denials.

No one can deny the problems in the province’s education system. Everyone should be involved in fixing them.