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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

When Justice Has Been Done

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 allegations were concerning: A teacher yelling at her students, saying they were stupid, calling them names, refusing to let them use the bathroom and making one, who was behind in his work, cry.

The school board investigation verified the accounts. A Children’s Aid Society (CAS) report also said the children were at risk of emotional harm.

The teacher expressed remorse and complied with the board’s direction to complete a course at her own expense on setting boundaries with students, effective classroom management techniques and sensitivity to students with special needs.

So what was the Investigation Committee to do?

The events occurred late in the fall of 2012. After completing its own due diligence, the school board reported to the College as per its duty to report under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, and the Registrar filed a complaint, which launched an investigation.

The Investigation Committee reviewed a binder of material that included letters, emails, investigator’s notes following telephone conversations, accounts from interviews with students, correspondence with the member’s legal counsel, and reports from the school board and the CAS.

According to the documents, children in the member’s class were depressed and weren’t sleeping well — both behaviours unrelated to anything at home but consistent with complaints about episodes at school.

When one little boy cut his finger and looked to the teacher for sympathy, she reportedly yelled, “I’m not your nurse.” The teacher apparently told another student with a speech difficulty to “talk normal — or stop complaining to me.” The children also reported that the teacher accused them of “making noise” to the school principal about her.

When the Children’s Aid Society was called in, its representatives confirmed the reports, saying that the member frequently yelled and screamed at students in her class and that it could be heard in the hallway. Subsequently, the CAS determined that the children found the teacher’s behaviour threatening and that they were “at risk of emotional harm.”

The member denied the allegations. “I can’t let bad behaviour go unchallenged,” she said. “What am I supposed to do?”

Following its investigation, the school board directed the teacher to take a course with respect to boundaries with students, effective classroom management techniques and sensitivity to students with special needs. As well, she was instructed to participate in mandatory counselling through the board’s Employee Assistance Program, and accept a temporary reassignment for the balance of the school year. Failure to do so would result in immediate suspension without pay and further evaluation regarding her employment, the board said.

When the matter came to the Investigation Committee, the member’s lawyer provided written arguments that the matter had been effectively settled and that her client should be spared referral to the Discipline Committee.

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

The Outcome

Having reviewed all the submissions and all relevant information available, the Investigation Committee panel expressed “grave concerns” related to the member’s “inappropriate comments and actions.” The committee was especially concerned by the CAS assertion that children were at risk.

Noting the member’s willingness to seek counselling, successfully complete the prescribed course, and acknowledging that there were no additional similar incidents reported after the rehabilitative measures, the Investigation Committee decided to admonish the member in writing against the conduct alleged in the complaint.

The matter was not referred to the Discipline Committee.