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.
Hearings can lead to everything from counselling to revocations.
Sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Disregard for the welfare of students. Fraudulent use of board resources. These are among the most serious allegations that a member of the College can face. What happens when they do?
In the previous three pieces of this series (oct-oeeo.ca/PSarchives), we covered the nature of complaints, investigations and the complaint resolution process. Now we turn to the final instalment: hearings and decisions.
For the College, every step of the complaints process demonstrates respect for the principles of justice and accountability. Complaints regarding professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity are scrutinized in a thorough and impartial manner.
In a given year, the College receives approximately 1,000 expressions of concern. Some concerns are redirected for resolution at the school or board level. Others are disposed of by the Investigation Committee. About 100 proceed to the hearing stage.
Typically, the Discipline Committee deals with approximately 90 per cent of those 100 matters — allegations of professional misconduct and/or incompetence. The other 10 per cent of hearings relate to allegations of incapacity and are carried out by the Fitness to Practise Committee (see sidebar).
On the scale of College proceedings, hearings are the most weighty process a member can face, as are the potential penalties. The parties to a discipline hearing are the College and the member facing allegations of misconduct or incompetence. A panel of the Discipline Committee (which includes at least one appointed and one elected Council member) hears the case.
The hearing process is quasi-judicial. That means it has similarities to a court proceeding and follows rules set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, the Ontario College of Teachers Act, as well as the Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee and of the Fitness to Practise Committee.
For Discipline Committee cases, the hearings are open to the public (except in very limited circumstances). Upon a referral to a hearing by the Investigation Committee, College counsel prepares a notice of hearing. It details the date and location of the hearing, and the details of the charges against the member.
At the hearing, a panel of the Discipline Committee considers the evidence provided by College counsel and the member. The panel then determines if the teacher is guilty of professional misconduct or is incompetent. With findings of guilt, the panel can make a range of orders:
Panels prepare their formal decision and reasons. They outline evidence received during the hearing, findings and any orders arising from the findings. These are made available on the College’s website as well as through legal databases. Revocations and suspensions remain on the College’s “Find a Teacher” public register indefinitely. Summaries of Discipline Committee decisions are also published in Professionally Speaking.
Sometimes, a health-related issue might affect the member’s ability to teach. Such matters can come before the Fitness to Practise Committee.
Through a hearing process, the committee determines if the member is suffering from a physical or mental condition or disorder such that the member is unfit to carry out his or her professional responsibilities. If so, the committee can revoke or suspend a Certificate of Qualification and Registration, or impose terms, limitations or conditions on the certificate. The College monitors all conditions ordered by the committee to ensure compliance.
The focus of incapacity proceedings is rehabilitative and may involve sensitive medical information. Therefore, Fitness to Practise hearings are closed to the public. Details of decisions are not posted on the College website, but the public register does reference things such as suspensions or the need to notify the Registrar before returning to teaching.