Ontario’s experiment with self-regulating teachers is not going well

Today I want to comment on an Ontario issue. The Toronto Star has started a series on the teaching in Ontario (see the list below). In particular, it is focussing on the profession’s self-regulating body, the Ontario College of Teachers.

This is an issue close to me as I remain in good standing with the College, despite being out of teaching for number of years. It’s also close to me because one of the key members in our organization, Jim Black, was persecuted by the College for exposing the very thing the Star is covering – that is, the secrecy behind the disciplinary process and the tendency to allow abusive and exploitative teachers back into the classroom.

We attempted to intervene in his case, but were either rebuffed or ignored (see the case summary on our website).

We also attempted to alarm the Minister of Education, Leona Dombrowsky, about the reprisal and the underlying problem, but were rebuffed with a letter stating that there wasn’t anything she could do as the College has autonomy in the disciplinary process. This makes the (probably manufactured) outrage expressed by Premier Dalton McGuinty galling to us.

Just as galling is the response of the College’s Registrar, Michael Salvatori. His protests that he can’t speak to case specifics is pure hypocrisy given his own reaction to the public interest actions of Jim Black. Indeed, the process used to punish Mr. Black was Kafkaesque, with no real proof of the offence they accused him of – that is, divulging the name of a convicted molester reinstated to the classroom. In Mr. Black’s case, they wove a lengthy and disingenuous narrative justifying their actions and vilifying Mr. Black in the College’s magazine Professionally Speaking. Our rebuttal letter was never published.

Now it appears that the Premier and the Registrar are hiding behind the upcoming inquiry by Justice Patrick LeSage. They publicly declare that they will be looking over his shoulder or cooperating fully respectively. But anyone familiar with the architecture of a cover-up knows that the biggest and most important step is to hire someone to do an investigation – preferable someone reputable but known to be friendly – and then limit and manipulate the investigation and its findings so that no real misconduct is found. At worst, a scapegoat might be thrown to the wolves.

It is my concern that this is what is happening now. You see, as of today I have attempted to contact the College twice, asking how we might participate in the inquiry. Both times I went to voice mail. And so far, nobody has called me back.

Canadians for Accountability has concerns about self-regulating professions in general, and this case does nothing to improve our opinion. Far too often, personal connections interfere with justice and the public interest. The College only stands out in the speed and depth with which it descended to those levels.

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The Star (Toronto), September 29, 2011
Summary: The police and courts have dealt with appalling cases of sexual predation, assault and pornography that have left a trail of wounded students in their wake. The college has named and shamed hundreds of offenders over the years in reports on its website and in its newsletter, and has revoked many licences. Even so, lesser cases that are veiled in secrecy inevitably raise concern that the college, which regulates teachers “in the public interest,” may be too prone to shield errant teachers. Is that degree of anonymity truly warranted? And just how clear are the rules?

Bad teachers: Ontario’s secret list
The Star (Toronto), September 29, 2011
Summary: Here are some of the people licensed in Ontario to teach your children.

Leaders outraged by expose on bad teachers
The Star (Toronto), September 30 2011
Summary: All three major party leaders reacted with outrage to the first part of the Star’s series on discipline for teachers that was published Friday.

McGuinty says parents have a ‘right to know’ about bad teachers
iPolitics, September 30, 2011
Summary: Ontario’s self-proclaimed “education premier” took a hard line against problem teachers Friday, vowing to out those who abuse their “position of trust.” Parents have a right to know when teachers misbehave and more should be done to warn them, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said at an election campaign stop in Brampton. What’s more, the profession’s watchdog, the Ontario College of Teachers, needs to be more open about how it deals with rogue teachers, he said.

Predator teachers: Students ruined by teacher sex assaults
The Star (Toronto), October 1, 2011
Summary: Predator teachers have left a trail of wounded students across Ontario. Teachers, mostly male but some female, have sexually abused young people. Broken lives are the result.

Police check to screen new teachers gives illusion of security
The Star (Toronto), October 2, 2011
Summary: In 2000, an investigation into teacher misconduct recommended that all new teachers receive a police check and a thorough background screening. The police check is an illusion of security that is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Sexting, cuddling with student, a teenage girl, did not cost teacher his job
The Star (Toronto), October 2, 2011
Summary: If you are a teacher, you can get away with a lot and keep your job. Toronto high school drama teacher Richard Burdett wrote more than 1,300 intimate, sexually charged instant messages to a female high school student, including a vivid description of how he had dreamt of performing oral sex on her.

3 thoughts on “Ontario’s experiment with self-regulating teachers is not going well”

  1. Elorna:
    Very good question. There are a few solutions.

    1. The Premiere was aware of much of the outrageous conduct of the Ontario College of Teachers Council dating back to 2004. You could ask him why he did nothing to stop the abuse of children.

    2. You could join the Canadians for Accountability.

    3. The Liberal and the Conservatives voted over overwhelmingly against Bill 183 which would have allowed the Ombudsman to investigate schools. Lobby or support any and all such new legislation in the future. Demand it from the Liberals to reintroduce the third party investigation of schools, hospitals and children aid…. other provinces have it what is wrong with Ontario…. Write your MPP or all of them….

    4. Support the Coalition against Bullying.(London Ontario etc ) The Ontario College of Teachers seems to be the role model for Bullies in our schools.

    Doing nothing is not an option for the protection of children.

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