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Governing Ourselves

Governing Ourselves informs members of legal and regulatory matters affecting the profession. This section provides updates on licensing and qualification requirements, notification of Council resolutions and reports from various Council committees, including reports on accreditation and discipline matters.

Investigation Committee Case Study

A Matter of Investigation

The College’s Investigation Committee considers all complaints made to the College about its members and reviews all information resulting from investigations. The committee can dismiss a complaint or refer the matter, in whole or in part, to the Discipline or Fitness to Practise committees for a hearing.

The Investigation Committee may also caution or admonish the member in writing or in person, or provide written reminders or advice or ratify a Memorandum of Agreement reached through the complaint resolution process.

By law, cases under investigation are confidential. For the education of members, the following account, based on facts from real cases, raises important questions about teacher conduct such as what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Details have been altered to respect confidentiality.

The English class was over and the student wanted to catch his bus to go home for lunch. The dismissal bell rang and he headed for the classroom door. The teacher told him to return to his seat. He kept walking. Contact between teacher and student occurred at the doorway. How much or how little depends on whom you spoke to.

The student said the teacher grabbed his wrist, which prevented him from opening the door. As a result, the student’s parent complained to the College that the teacher assaulted his son as he tried to leave the classroom. Meanwhile, the student was suspended for not following the direction of the teacher.

The teacher denied the allegation of an assault, saying she reached for the door handle at almost the same time as the student and may have inadvertently touched his hand.

Once the College received the letter of complaint from the parent, it notified the member and invited her to respond. An investigation ensued. Information was gathered from the parent, the teacher and the school board. Typically, that includes employee history, any record of previous misconduct, board/school investigation notes, employer policies and any police or Children’s Aid Society information. The College’s Investigation Committee carefully reviewed all relevant information.

Again, the teacher denied grabbing the student’s wrist. She admitted she and the student reached for the door handle at the same time and there may have been incidental touching. She said she stepped aside and let him pass through, and that she reported the incident to the vice-principal immediately.

She was not involved in the decision to suspend the student and was not advised of it. Legal counsel for the member requested that the complaint be dismissed.

The parent agreed with the suspension because his son disobeyed the teacher, but was concerned that the physical contact was not mentioned in the suspension letter. He heard about it from his son.

The student said the teacher forcibly grabbed his wrist and prevented him from opening the door. “Let go,” he told her.

The parent contacted the school board and asked the board to investigate but said he did not receive a reply. Police were not contacted.

If you were a member of the panel, what would you have decided?

The outcome

As a result, the three-person Investigation Committee panel issued a reminder to the member. A reminder is not a disciplinary action and is intended to help members avoid any future difficulties.

The panel noted that there was conflicting information from the member, student and other witnesses. However, the panel said that the member indicated there may have been some incidental contact when she and the student reached for the door handle at the same time. The panel said that even if it accepted the member’s version, there were concerns that she attempted to prevent the student from leaving the classroom.

The committee reminded the member to avoid physical contact with students and to use other mechanisms at her disposal to deal with the situation.

Professional reflection:

  1. Identify the professional resources that would inform your decisions and actions in this situation.
  2. Discuss the insights and perspectives that can be gained from this case to inform professional practices of the educator.