We learned recently, in an explosive Toronto Star article by Kevin Donovan, (H/T newswatchcanada.ca) that the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) is allowing the bad behaviour of some teachers to remain a secret from parents and the general public — even when those teachers have pleaded guilty to sexual and physical abuse. Clearly, that is the opposite of the public accountability and disclosure that the OCT was supposed to guarantee.
The result of such secrecy is, of course, that the only people who benefit are the teachers accused and later disciplined. Meaning, that the safety and comfort of the students, and the rights of parents, seem to count for nothing. And, as a former teacher and teacher educator, I have to tell you, hearing things like this is very disappointing.
How could the lack of public trust happen?
So, how could something like this type of dysfunction happen to an organization that is responsible for the licensing and disciplinary action of the teaching profession, as well as standards of teaching practice? Well, I suspect, it happened very gradually and likely not with the intention of breaking the public trust. But, break the trust they have — in spades!
Changes to the OCT Council Began in 2004:
First, we need put the blame right at the core of the McGuinty government. Sure, the Cabinet and bureaucrats might not have known about specific College policies and day-to-day operations, but they had to have known about the secrecy and keeping names anonymous because that information is published regularly in the OCT magazine, “Professionally Speaking,” as well as on the OCT website. Meaning that the McGuinty government, from 2003-2007, can be held totally responsible for the non-publishing of names, or in some cases, even about the hearings, because they had to have known what was going on.
For example, if you look at the link to the OCT disciplinary summaries on their website that do not identify the name of the teacher, scroll the page. You will find that prior to 2003/04 there were only a few unidentified summaries a year. However, starting in 2005, the anonymous entries increased significantly — the exact dates that coincide with the amendment the first McGuinty government made to the Ontario College of Teachers Act in 2004. Coincidence?
The timeline for the change began with then Education Minister Gerard Kennedy released a paper titled “Revitalizing the Ontario College of Teachers.” Following that, the OCT Council set up an Ad Hoc Committee whose recommendations eventually brought about amendments to the Ontario College of Teachers Act. Those amendments resulted in several more teachers being elected. Seventeen out of 31 had been elected prior to the amendments compared to 23 out of 37 now. Meaning, the first McGuinty government voted for the amendments allowing the teachers on the OCT governing council to have a clear majority.
Elements of OCT Self-governance:
Now, self-governance by itself does not account for the secrecy and lack of public accountability we can read about in the Star article. I mean there is nothing essentially wrong with teachers supervising their profession. However, what is wrong is the fact that the teachers’ unions are very much pulling the strings at the governing council disciplinary hearing level and, as is public knowledge, too often those very same unions support bad teachers. And, from what Donovan writes, they don’t mind using intimidation to keep disciplinary hearing members in line.
In fact, teacher union involvement started right back in the beginning in 1996/97, when the first annual election took place for the OCT governing council. Teachers had to be nominated to run for the then few self-governing positions. I know, because my husband was nominated as one of the regional candidates.
However, shortly before those first mail-in ballots were submitted, the teachers’ unions sent out a “list” of pre-approved candidates that they asked teachers to vote for as a slate. Of course, no one forced anyone to vote for the names on the list. And, no doubt the unions would simply say that the names were only suggestions. But, unfortunately, the outcome was exactly as the unions hoped because every single name from the union slate got elected that year, and for many years after. In fact, I have no doubt, a similar annual OCT Council candidates election “list”continues to this day.
Teacher union involvement the problem:
Anyway, my point is that the union involvement, no matter how indirectly, is a conflict of interest and opens the door to allegations of corruption! I mean, how can a so-called independent body judge its own peers? Well, there might be some who would argue that is the way it should be, professionals judging professionals. That might be true if the unions were not pulling the strings and pulling the strings, they certainly are.
For example, the Star writer says that “most teachers on disciplinary panels were previously members of a local bargaining unit of a teachers’ union.” Meaning, that there is a direct connection between the unions and the OCT and discipline.
Is it any wonder, then, that the very same unions are running multi-million dollar campaigns to get the McGuinty Liberals re-elected? They like the status quo.
Anyway, read the Star article in full. This story needs to get out to every single Ontario household. It should also be a wake up call for those teachers still practising that are not union activists.
Endnote 1: Here is a follow-up article by the Star’s Donovan about how Jacques Tremblay, a teacher who precides over the OCT disciplinary committee, wrote an alleged soft porn book for teens called “The Sexteens and the Fake Goddess.” Unbelievable! Yet, all Tremblay says is that his writing is separate from his job and his OCT duties. Well hello? When you are teacher, everything you do reflects on your role. Unbelievable! (H/T newswatchcanada.ca)
Endnote 2: Well, it seems that Mr. Tremblay has resigned from his position as Chair of the OCT Disciplinary Committee and as a member of the governing Council — so as not to affect public confidence in the OCT. Well, it is a bit late for that already given Donovan’s expose. (H/T Blue Like You).
Endnote 3: Even Chris Selley of the National Post has something to say on this topic.