By Jennifer Lewington
Photo: Ric Frazier/Masterfile
Under the Child and Family Services Act, the Ontario College of Teachers’ members have a legal obligation to report to a Children’s Aid Society about any suspicions that a child could be in need of protection.
That obligation was highlighted in February 2014 when an Ontario coroner’s jury recommended action by multiple organizations, including those in education, following the death of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin. In 2002, the Toronto child starved to death at the hands of his grandparents, who were later convicted of second-degree murder.
Among 103 recommendations from the coroner’s jury, 11 were directed at the Ministry of Education, all aimed at improved reporting of cases, staff training and other procedures to address child neglect and abuse.
A reminder of the duty to report was included in a professional advisory, Safety in Learning Environments: A Shared Responsibility, released in 2013 by the College. “The obligation to report directly is on the individual — they cannot rely on another person to report on their behalf,” states the advisory.
“Student safety is a shared responsibility.Know your professional responsibilities and how to take action when required in suspected matters of child neglect and abuse.”
But in College focus groups held in the summer of 2014, teachers, parents and other participants expressed concern and confusion over their obligations.
“The issue of duty to report was clearly seen as an area that required further professional development among teachers,” says Richard Lewko, the College’s director of Corporate and Council Services.
Among the concerns, he adds, was a “lack of clarity about the circumstances that would trigger a report.”
The College consulted with expert and critical readers, including children’s aid societies, school board supervisory officers, union affiliates and police services to prepare a professional advisory to assist teachers in reporting suspected child neglect and abuse.
Deputy Registrar Joe Jamieson, OCT, says the duty to report links directly to the College’s professional misconduct regulation. “Failure to report under the Child and Family Services Act is misconduct,” he says, noting teachers need to reflect on their duty under Regulation 437/97, beyond any ethical obligations.
Through the guidance and advice offered to members, the advisory answers such questions as: what triggers your duty to report; to whom do you report a suspected case of child abuse; and what are the consequences of not reporting.
Duty to report applies to all Ontario Certified Teachers at all times and includes teachers, consultants, vice-principals, principals, supervisory officers, directors of education and those working in non-school-board positions.
College members are expected to demonstrate professional judgment, which is informed at all times by the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession.
We encourage you to remove the advisory from the magazine, and to keep it handy should you need to refer to it. Student safety is a shared responsibility. Know your professional responsibilities and how to take action when required in suspected matters of child neglect and abuse.
The College’s mandate is to serve and protect the public interest. One of the many ways in which it does this is through the development of professional advisories for its members, which includes teachers, consultants, vice-principals, principals, supervisory officers, directors of education and those working in non-school-board positions. These advisories help inform a teacher’s professional judgment and practice.
The College has published the following advisories: