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.
Keeping students safe is a legislated professional responsibility. Helping to ensure that teaching professionals know and understand their responsibilities is a mandated function of the Ontario College of Teachers.
Protecting students takes many forms. Recent legislative changes announced in the passing of the Protecting Students Act, 2016, for example, will help to improve efficiencies and accountability in the investigations and hearings process that helps to safeguard Ontario students. Among its amendments, the Act gives the Registrar authority to appoint a special investigator to acquire information sooner. As well, it fast-tracks cases to the Discipline Committee where there has been a criminal conviction, and defines timelines for school boards to provide information to the College following a complaint.
The Enhanced Teacher Education Program at Ontario faculties of education protects Ontario students by helping teacher candidates become knowledgeable educators who are sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population. The College’s work to review the program — in particular, its impact on focus program areas such as French-language, technological and Aboriginal teacher education, with increased awareness of program durability and sustainability — reinforces that protection.
By speaking with teacher candidates in the program, the College provides vital professional advice on mandate-related topics such as professional conduct and the use of social media, exercising professional judgment using the ethical standards, and the duty to report suspected abuse or neglect of children.
The duty to report is immediate, direct, ongoing and overrides concerns about confidentiality. As a professional, you need to know your obligations, recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, and know how and what to report.
Professional advisories inform professional judgment and practice. In June 2015, College Council approved the distribution of the professional advisory Duty to Report as a reminder that each OCT has a responsibility to protect children and youth from harm. The College’s Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession provide moral and practical groundwork for the College’s advice.
Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act requires those who perform professional or official duties with respect to children to report suspected child abuse where there are reasonable grounds. A child is anyone under 16 (or appears to be) or who is 16 or 17 and subject to a child protection order.
You have to report to a children’s aid society so that they can assess and determine what the child needs, and suspicion on reasonable grounds — information that an average person, using normal and honest judgment would need to decide — is reason enough to report.
According to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, “Abuse occurs when a child is hurt intentionally or when a parent or caregiver does not provide the protection a child needs. Physical and sexual abuse are often the most recognizable, but neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging.”
The duty to report is immediate, direct, ongoing and overrides concerns about confidentiality. As a professional, you need to know your obligations, recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, and know how and what to report. Finally, you should be able to say with confidence that you have: reported your suspicions and the information on which they are based appropriately and promptly to protect and safeguard the child; that you have let the children in your care know that they have rights; that you have done all you can to inform yourself; that you have sought training and support; and that you have taken prompt and immediate action when required in suspected matters of child neglect and abuse.
If you haven’t read it lately, have another look at Duty to Report at oct-oeeo.ca/dutytoreport.
Bruce Beardy’s Indigenous artistic interpretations of the teaching profession’s ethical standards are getting lofty, new northern exposure. Images from the College’s poster series on the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession (oct-oeeo.ca/ethical), created by Beardy, OCT, an Anishinaabe artist and education adviser with the Independent First Nations Alliance, will be featured in a new planetarium program at Science North.
Beardy narrates some of a 21-minute video called Under the Same Stars: Minwaadiziwin, which is part of a fixed show at the Science North planetarium and a travelling planetarium program that will go into schools, community gyms, festivals and fairs, which will be open to the public in June.
As Science North describes the program: “The First People were scientists and innovators, carefully tracking and moving with the seasons and creating inventions that allowed them to survive in the northern forests of our country. With this close connection to the natural world, the Indigenous People of Canada developed a strong culture, rooted in respect for the environment. Under the Same Stars: Minwaadiziwin aims to give visitors a chance to learn about the Indigenous worldview, and sit at the fire with two people who are connected to the traditional ways. Visitors will leave the planetarium with an understanding of common constellations visible in the night sky and the Anishinaabe stories that define them.”
The Ontario College of Teachers is contributing by allowing Science North to use the images produced by Beardy.
“Bruce has been integral to the project as one of our Indigenous consultants. His voice fills the dome with stories as one of the narrators,” says Emily Kerton, senior scientist, Outreach and Indigenous Initiatives, Science North Thunder Bay. “The artwork he produced to illustrate the professional values is an important piece that also illustrates the messages our production portrays.”
The Under the Same Stars: Minwaadiziwin video will be part of a travelling program touring northern Ontario schools and “as many Indigenous communities as possible that are road accessible.” Funding from the Ontario 150 program for the portable show provides free access to students.
Kerton says the program hopes to teach students about the Indigenous worldview and the culture of our First People. “And we also want to leave students with the knowledge that we all share this planet, so we all need to be in this together and work to conserve it.”
“It’s exciting that the College’s ethical standards are going to be part of a science show,” says Déirdre Smith, the College’s manager of the Standards of Practice and Education Unit.
Smith says that the ethical standards posters are also being used by hospitals and by the Association of Early Childhood Educators in early learning child-care centres as teaching tools. They have also been distributed to all Ontario faculties of education and have been requested by the Chiefs of Ontario for posting.