The province is proposing legislation that would create a public and searchable online database of Alberta teacher information.
The database would include the status of teachers' certificates including any that have been suspended or cancelled due to unprofessional conduct or professional incompetence.
The Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) says that a number of the changes to the legislation are ones that it has worked on with the province and have been best practices of the industry.
“We're welcoming the changes and we recognize that the (province) is modernizing our process and actually doing a lot to modernize the government's process that it uses for private charter schools and superintendents,” Jonathan Teghtmeyer, spokesperson for the ATA, told the News.
The province says that making the process more transparent will ensure the safety of students and create more confidence for parents, who will be able to see if a teacher has been disciplined for a serious matter.
“We think that the public should have confidence that issues related to teacher behaviour and teacher conduct have been handled effectively and appropriately, both in the past and going forward,” said Teghtmeyer.
“This legislation is really about modernizing the processes and taking a look at processes that really haven't been re-examined for many, many years.”
Education minister Adriana LaGrange said the vast majority of teachers across Alberta are “incredible, hard-working educators who have the best interest of their students at heart.”
However, she said where instances of professional misconduct or criminal wrongdoing arise, they “need to be dealt with quickly and transparently.”
The province says if a teacher is convicted of a serious indictable offence under the Criminal Code that threatens student safety, the proposed legislation will ensure a quick process to cancel the teaching certificate.
“The (ATA) believes the public should have confidence that teacher conduct is being handled effectively and appropriately by the association,” said Teghtmeyer. “If this legislation helps bolster that confidence, that's a good thing.”
The legislation will require school authorities to conduct criminal record and vulnerable sector checks upon employing a teacher or teacher leader, and then every five years onward while employed.
Teghtmeyer said that these checks are currently done at different stages of employment as well; if a teacher is convicted of an offence, it is reported to the school board and the ATA.
“It has been the practice of school boards to require criminal record and vulnerable sector checks,” said Teghtmeyer.
“It has been the practice of the government to require criminal record checks in order to get certification.
“When the minister says that it's not been in legislation before that is technically true, it hasn't been required by law, but it's important to note that it generally has been the practice.”
The proposed legislation hopes to reduce the judicial review of disciplinary decisions from six months to 60 days.
The legislation will also require the ATA to notify Alberta Education's registrar at various stages of a complaint process.
“We think that the public should have confidence that matters related to teacher behaviour and conduct have been handled effectively and appropriately both in the past and going forward,” said Teghtmeyer.
“We look forward to continuing to enhance our processes to ensure that our ability to uphold high standards of conduct to protect the public interest and contribute toward public assurance or maintained.”
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News