Kingston area teacher's licence revoked for possessing child pornography

A Kingston man has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) and stripped of his teaching licence for owning and viewing child pornography.

OCT’s discipline panel denounced Mitchell James Skinner’s “misconduct in the strongest terms” and revoked his teaching license in Ontario. Lisa Tucker, Yasser Leheta, and Emile Ramlochan formed the Ontario College of Teachers Discipline Committee, which met electronically on Thursday, Mar. 7, 2024, and issued its decision on Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2024.

The written copy of the decision notes that Skinner did not attend the hearing and had legal representation. The panel was advised at the outset of the hearing that the parties had agreed to this arrangement. The panel ordered a publication ban pursuant to subsection 32.1(3) of the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996, which makes such an order mandatory.

Jordan Glick, counsel for the OCT, presented the panel with a statement of uncontested facts and a plea of no contest between the OCT and Skinner.

It was uncontested that Mitchell James Skinner was a registered member of the OCT and was employed by the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) as a high school teacher beginning in 2015.

On December 7, 2017, police executed a search warrant on Skinner’s residence in Kingston and seized several devices, including Skinner’s cellphone and secure digital (SD) card, which contained child pornography. Police arrested Skinner and charged him with several child pornography-related offences.

Skinner’s plea acknowledged that these images constituted child pornography as defined in section 163.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Additionally, his cellphone contained applications that were used to hide some of the child pornography images from easy view as well as chat messages in which child pornography was discussed.

After his arrest, the LDSB placed Skinner on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, and notified the OCT of the charges. On October 8, 2018, Skinner entered into an undertaking with the OCT not to seek or engage in any employment that requires an OCT Certificate of Qualification and Registration.

On May 17, 2021, Skinner was acquitted of the criminal charges after the child pornography seized from his residence was excluded from evidence due to violations under sections 8, 9, and 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nonetheless, Skinner did not contest the claim that the images and comments found on his phone belonged to him and that the images constitute child pornography as defined by the Criminal Code. And his plea before the OCT states that he understands that, by pleading no contest to the allegations, he is waiving the right to require the OCT to otherwise prove the case against him, as well as the right to have a hearing.

Skinner acknowledged that his plea of no contest pursuant to Rule 3.02 of the Rules of Procedure of the Discipline Committee and Fitness to Practise Committee under the protection of the Evidence Act, R.S.O. 1990, is for the sole purpose of this proceeding under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996. Therefore Skinner’s plea of no contest does not constitute an admission as to the facts or findings in any other civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding.

Counsel for the OCT requested that the allegations of professional misconduct --- namely that Skinner contravened subsections 1(7) and 1(7.2) of Ontario Regulation 437/97 of the Ontario College of Teachers Act, and engaged in sexual misconduct as defined in section 1 of the Act --- be withdrawn. OCT counsel stated that they were seeking the panel’s permission to withdraw the allegations as there was no evidence to support findings with respect to these allegations. The panel granted this request.

The panel found that Skinner committed acts that would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional, contrary to Ontario Regulation 437 subsection 1(18), and that “possessing child pornography perpetuates the exploitation of children who have been abused.” Skinner’s possession of child pornography “was a flagrant and abhorrent disregard of his duty and responsibility to ensure the safety of children.”

The panel also found that by possessing child pornography and attempting to hide child pornography, Skinner had “undeniably eroded the reputation of the teaching profession and seriously undermined the trust that the public places in teachers to protect children and serve as positive role models.”

The panel accepted the joint submission on penalty and directed that Skinner receive a written reprimand and that the fact of the reprimand be recorded on the Register of the Ontario College of Teachers. Further, the OCT registrar was directed to immediately revoke Skinner’s Certificate of Qualification and Registration./

Michelle Dorey Forestell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,