Investigations: Case Study

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


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 Practice 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.

During an emergency lockdown drill at a high school, a principal and police officers toured the floors to ensure staff and students were following proper safety procedures.

Everything was in order — except for one classroom.

The students were still in their seats. They were not hiding. The teacher was at the front of the classroom. In fact, he’d been seen out in the hallway. The large classroom window had not been covered. Some of the room’s lights were still on.

“What are you doing?” asked the principal, who had alerted staff in advance that a lockdown drill would be held that day and requested that staff review the procedures. “The students are supposed to be in the corner or the back of the classroom where they can’t be seen.”

The member said the students could be seen wherever they went in the classroom and that’s why he told them to stay in their seats.

“You just killed all of your students,” police allegedly told the teacher.

The teacher’s employer investigated the matter, which included interviews with students, and then suspended him. The board also informed the College, sparking a Registrar-initiated complaint against the member. Using its legal right under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, the College wrote the board to request information and documents related to the alleged misconduct.

The Investigation Committee reviewed all the relevant information about the matter. In one student witness statement, a teen said: “He should have followed rules so we would not be hurt.” Other students said the member told them he was trying to make a point because there were no drapes or blinds on the window.

The member said that he reviewed the lockdown drill procedures with his class. When the drill was announced, he locked the door and turned off the lights that he could control — some were controlled from another part of the school.

The member admitted he did not follow an emergency lockdown drill procedure and left students sitting at their desks. He said there was really nowhere for the students to hide. The corner of the room was in plain view of the window. He had followed the same process in previous lockdown drills and there were no concerns, he said.

Lockdown plans and drills are just as essential as fire drills for student and staff safety, according to a Deputy Minister memo to school boards at the time. It’s important that people in schools and responding police know what is being done to ensure a safe outcome.

In April, the College issued the professional advisory Safety in Learning Environments: A Shared Responsibility to remind members that they share a responsibility for student safety.

If you were a member of the panel, what would you do?

The outcome

The committee decided to admonish the member in writing. Admonishments are meant to help a member improve their practice and avoid future difficulties.

The committee noted that the member acknowledged that he did not comply with the emergency lockdown procedures. He attempted to justify his actions to demonstrate deficiencies in the school’s safety procedures. The panel, however, was concerned about these actions because they could affect student safety and there were other ways to address his concerns.

The panel seriously considered referring the matter to the Discipline Committee because the actions were serious and bordered on insubordination due to non-compliance with the Education Act. However, the Investigation Committee panel noted that the member had no disciplinary history and he described his reasons for disobeying the procedure as being well-intended.