An Understanding of Boundaries
Is Vital for Today's Teacher

The College is taking a big step forward by contributing to this understanding.

In my daily role as a teacher and a federation representative, I have on numerous occasions addressed faculty of education students, teachers who were taking Additional Qualification courses, parent organizations, federation meetings and other groups of teachers. I am often asked to speak about professional behaviour and what constitutes professional misconduct. Inevitably, I am challenged when I mention that all too often I find myself representing individuals who do not understand what we mean when we talk about “boundary issues.” However, the College Council took a step at our meeting on March 22 and 23 that I believe will prove to be very significant for every member and prospective member of the profession. Council members strongly supported circulating a professional advisory – the first in the College’s history – to all members on the issue of sexual misconduct. We will include this advisory in Professionally Speaking as soon as the regulatory changes that Council also approved at that meeting receive the necessary government approval. You can find a complete report on the Council’s decisions on the issue of sexual misconduct on page 37 of this issue.

I N C L U S I V E      P R O C E S S

As the College developed our recommendations in response to the Robins report on sexual misconduct, one of our primary goals was to make the process collaborative and co-operative. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation and its affiliates, principals’ organizations, directors of education and supervisory officers’ organizations, the public and Catholic school boards associations, the police chiefs’ organization, Children’s Aid Societies, and many others participated in a face-to-face forum as well as providing written input to the process. The College’s Executive, Discipline, Accreditation, Standards of Practice and Education, Investigation and Fitness to Practice Committees dealt with relevant recommendations in their meetings. The result was a comprehensive analysis of the report, and some very good dialogue and debate on how the College should respond. The public discussion of this issue at Council was informed, professional and caring, and the outcome was truly a credit to all Ontario teachers. While Council members very properly gave great weight to the recommendations made last year by Justice Robins in Protecting Our Students, we were able to add some important perspectives from the College’s experience over the last four years and the collective wisdom of the experienced teachers around the Council table. There will be continuing discussion throughout the profession on this issue. Council has done an excellent job, but we are not prepared to say we have developed the definitive statement about the issue of sexual misconduct and how it should be dealt with. In the years ahead, panels of various College committees will continue to deal with specific complaints on a case-by-case basis.

E N S U R E      U N D E R S T A N D I N G

But it is my hope that the professional advisory will ensure that all members of the College know and appreciate what the term "boundary issues" means and how cognizant we must be in these days of increased scrutiny and accountability. I also want to ensure that the College will be able to work collaboratively and co-operatively with federations, district school boards and faculties of education in dealing both with the issue of sexual misconduct and the development of this professional advisory. At our March meeting I reminded Council – and I want to underline to all members of the teaching profession – that it is an extremely small number of individuals within our ranks who engage in sexual misconduct with students. It is an unfortunate reality that the individual who acts inappropriately receives far more media attention than the teacher who ensures that a classroom of students excel. By acting decisively on these recommendations that we have now forwarded to the Minister of Education, the College of Teachers, along with our professional partners, has provided one more assurance to the public that we take our responsibilities seriously and professionally.

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Ontario College of Teachers
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