Fitness to Practise
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Fitness to Practise
J had been struggling for some
time. She had started gambling and the debts from the compulsive addiction were
mounting. She was feeling depressed, had stopped seeing her psychiatrist and was
overwhelmed by her teaching workload.|
Then one day, she could not resist and took an envelope from the school secretaryís desk. It contained money that came from the studentsí fund. She got caught. J lost her job, was found guilty in court and received a conditional sentence.
The College held a Fitness to Practise hearing into the allegations against J and ordered conditions imposed on her certificate that include regular and rigorous treatment and monitoring ó by her doctor, the school board and the College ó for a period of three years, after which the conditions may be lifted.
P R O C E S S L I T T L E K N O W N
The Collegeís Fitness to Practise hearings are little known. Thatís because they are not open to the public ó as disciplinary hearings are ó and often deal with medical issues.
The most important distinction between the two types of hearings, however, is that the Fitness to Practise process focuses primarily on rehabilitation. The Fitness to Practise Committee may, for example, impose limits, terms or conditions on a certificate and in the most serious cases, order the Registrar to revoke a certificate.
The types of cases referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee are quite different from those referred to the Discipline Committee. Since the beginning of the process four years ago, most cases have dealt with illnesses like depression, addictions and gambling.
In this issue, we will look at some cases that have been referred by the Investigation Committee to the Fitness to Practise Committee for a hearing. We will not publish any information that may identify the teacher or the students involved.
B I P O L A R D I S O R D E R
The College held a hearing last year into allegations of incapacity against a teacher suffering from bipolar disorder.
The complaint related to an incident where the teacher used profane language and directed his dog to attack another teacher as he went back to the school after school hours. He also pushed the school principal as she tried to intervene, ran out of the school and was later found seeking refuge in a church.
The panel received as evidence the complete medical records ó with consent ó of the hospital where the member is being treated and heard the attending psychiatrist, who confirmed the teacherís bipolar disorder diagnosis, reviewed the treatment followed and agreed to the terms specified in a joint submission.
A second medical expert testified on behalf of the College that he had reviewed the teacherís long-standing history of medical problems and that the teacher can and should return to his teaching duties. The expert recommended that the teacher continue to see his psychiatrist ó or a designate ó and to take his medication. He also recommended that the teacher provide his psychiatrist with a Form 14 under the Mental Health Act, allowing the doctor to notify someone at the school should the teacherís mental condition deteriorate.
A school board superintendent also told the panel that the board was aware of the teacherís condition and had taken into account all information before allowing the teacher back in the classroom. The board indicated that there was also a monitoring system in place to support the teacher following the incident.
The panel agreed that the teacherís condition was stable and that he should continue treatment ó including medication ó and monitoring. The panel was also satisfied that the condition was controlled at the time of the hearing and that the teacher did not pose a threat to students.
The panel found the teacher to be incapacitated under the Ontario College of Teachers Act and ordered the teacher to designate within 10 days a workplace monitor. The monitor must be acceptable to the Registrar and be regularly at any school where the teacher works and must immediately make a report to the Registrar if he or she has a reason to believe that the member is a threat to students or other people in the school system or does not respect the monitoring process.
S E V E R E D I S O R D E R
A second hearing involved a teacher alleged to have a mental condition that renders her unfit to carry out her professional responsibilities or would require her certificates be subject to terms, conditions or limitations.
A school principal testified at the hearing that he had set up an appointment with the occasional teacher over an incident regarding the pronunciation of a studentís name. The teacher decided without explanation not to attend the meeting.
A 12-year-old student also testified that the teacher had tried to remove his earring, leaving his ear bleeding. The student said the teacher shouted at him to "shut up", "get the hell out" and "boys donít wear earrings."
The principal of the school also testified that he tried without success to meet the teacher about the incident.
Two school administrators called as witnesses said they had separate meetings with the teacher and were accused by her of hitting her in the chest and setting up security devices that were disorienting and discriminatory. The teacher also complained about clouds and smoke in the rooms.
A College employee also testified about meeting the teacher when she visited the College. The staff member indicated that the teacher seemed confused, talked of an earring, a laser show in the hall, holograms, being hit in the stomach and not being able to move.
A psychiatrist called as an expert witness testified that although he had not examined the teacher, she seemed to suffer from a severe mental disorder with visual, auditory and somatic delusions. The expert indicated that the teacher would not be able to function professionally without diagnosis and treatment.
The panel believes the teacher suffers from a severe mental disorder that is not being treated and accepts that without adequate diagnosis, treatment and ongoing assessment, the teacher is unable to resume her teaching duties. The panel found the teacher to be incapacitated and ordered her teaching certificate revoked. The finding of the panel appears on the Collegeís public register.
A L C O H O L I S M
The Fitness to Practise Committee heard another case that involved a female teacher facing an allegation of incapacity for alcohol addiction.
The case stemmed from a complaint against the teacher after she missed a number of school days and was
suspended for eight days for alcohol-related misconduct. A number of students had talked to the school principal about the teacher drinking in class as well.
A medical report from an addiction expert stated that the teacher continues to suffer from alcohol dependence. The report indicated that the teacher was totally disabled and could not handle any work responsibility.
A second medical report from a doctor in a recovery program stated that the teacherís prognosis was extremely guarded and that treatment was incomplete.
The school board indicated in a letter that it was not prepared to accept the teacher back in active employment until it had a chance to review all relevant medical information and was satisfied that the teacher was fit to return to her teaching duties.
The panel found the member to be incapacitated and accepted that she suffers from alcohol dependence in active stage and that the prognosis is extremely guarded.
The panel ordered that the imposition of penalty be postponed for a period of five years or earlier, as determined by the committee, provided that the teacher receives treatment by a designated doctor and that she undertakes not to teach or return to active employment in teaching before she demonstrates to the committee that the condition has been treated to the extent to which the member is able to return to teach. The panelís order is recorded on the Collegeís public register.
B l u e P a g e s A r t i c l e s
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