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.
The Risks of Physical Contact
The College’s Investigation Committee considers 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 is appropriate and what is not. Details have been altered to respect confidentiality.
The College received a letter of notification from a school board regarding Annie, a high school teacher. The letter alleged that Annie knocked over a student’s desk in anger and, after the incident, did not check to see whether or not he was hurt.
The letter also alleged that, a few months later, Annie yelled at another student and put her hands on the student’s shoulder and neck in a manner that suggested a choking action.
Explaining her behaviour regarding the desk incident, Annie said that she was frustrated because the student had brought food to class despite her telling him not to many times. She further explained that this rule was well known to students. A struggle ensued between the two over his desk when he refused to hand over the food.
When he suddenly stopped pushing and stepped back, the desk fell. She stated that the student did not appear upset after the encounter and therefore she did not think that he had been harmed in any way.
In the second incident, in which Annie allegedly yelled at a student and put her hands on the student’s neck, Annie stated that she was becoming increasingly more frustrated with the student, who was shouting because she wanted immediate help on her project.
Annie explained that, as a way to defuse the situation, she pretended to be a robot and approached the student until her hands brushed her hair. She said she withdrew her hands once she realized how the physical contact might be misinterpreted.
If you were a member of the Investigation Committee, what would you do?
The panel decided not to refer the matter to the Discipline Committee, but required Annie to attend in person to receive an admonishment from the panel. An admonishment is a way to communicate the concerns of the Investigation Committee that is not disciplinary in nature.
In their decision, the panel members expressed their concerns about Annie’s conduct. They noted that she acknowledged that she had inappropriate contact with the students in both situations but also that the second incident occurred following Annie received a letter of warning after the first incident.
The panel admonished Annie to avoid any physical contact with students, except in self-defence or in protection of a student or a member of staff, and to avoid situations that could be interpreted as physical abuse.