Proposed law would publicize names of teachers who lose certificates

·4 min read
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange wants to make more information public about teachers who have lost their certificate for misconduct or incompetence. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange wants to make more information public about teachers who have lost their certificate for misconduct or incompetence. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government wants to make public more information about teachers who have been censured for misconduct.

Right now, it's a secret whether or not a teacher in the province has a certificate in good standing.

Should the legislature pass a new bill, Alberta Education would create an online registry of teachers, principals and superintendents by September 2022.

Once active, the website would show whether a teacher has ever had their certificate suspended or revoked, and link to copies of disciplinary decisions dating back to 1990.

"Those we entrust to educate and care for our children must be held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct," Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said at a Tuesday press conference.

It's what parents expect, students deserve and what both will get with proposed legal changes, she said.

Should Bill 85, the Education (Students First) Statutes Amendment Act clear the legislature, it would bring Alberta in line with British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan, which already have online registries of certified teachers.

LaGrange said the registry is a starting point, and didn't rule out taking further steps to increase the transparency of the processes. She says there's been no uptick in the number of recent cases.

The legislation also proposes other tweaks to how teachers and superintendents are regulated in Alberta.

Although most employers require teachers to submit a criminal record check and vulnerable sector check to get a job, officials say this is not a legal requirement. The legislation would require all Alberta schools and early childhood education programs to run those police checks when hiring staff and then every five years.

Teachers must already submit these checks to become certified in the province.

Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, said she was surprised routine checks aren't already required of teachers and applauded the proposed change.

She also lauded measures in the bill that seek to speed up how regulatory bodies handle cases of teachers already convicted of crimes.

The bill also proposes the Alberta Teachers' Association share more information with government about complaints against their members.

3 bodies regulate Alberta teachers

There are about 55,000 certified teachers in Alberta, but their conduct is soon to be policed by three separate organizations.

The ATA regulates the bulk of teachers — about 46,000 — by receiving and investigating any complaints about their conduct or competence.

Teachers who work in private schools and some on-reserve schools are regulated by the Alberta government.

And starting in September 2022, the College of Alberta School Superintendents will begin policing about 1,300 superintendents and other school leaders.

However, only the minister of education has the power to hand out teachers certificates, or suspend and revoke them.

Regulators like the ATA can levy fines, issue reprimands, or cancel teachers' memberships. But they can only recommend the minister suspend or revoke a certificate.

Citing privacy concerns, the government has previously refused to release any information about whether the minister ever follows through on those recommendations.

ATA president Jason Schilling says some of the proposals are changes the association has requested for years. They want to deal more efficiently with teachers already convicted of a crime.

He says the bill would bring the government's own teacher discipline process — which deals mostly with private school teachers and out-of-scope leaders — up to the standard of the ATA's existing practices. The ATA usually publicly names teachers found guilty of misconduct.

"We've had a process in place for years that ensures that teachers who behave inappropriately are dealt with, and teachers who have committed gross acts of misconduct are removed from the profession," Schilling said.

In 2020, the ATA received 126 complaints about teacher conduct, according to its annual report. The organization ran 24 discipline hearings last year, and 24 teachers were found guilty of a combined 83 charges.

Alberta Education's registrar received 38 complaints about non-ATA teachers between 2018 and 2020. There were nine disciplinary hearings in that timeframe, and all nine teachers were found guilty.

Both bodies have suspended or revoked a total of 23 teaching certificates in the past three years.

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