Toronto school board head resigns over plagiarism scandal

The Toronto District School Board's director of education has resigned after being caught in a plagiarism scandal.

"Today, I have accepted the resignation of Director of Education Chris Spence from his position with the Toronto District School Board. This resignation is effective immediately," said a terse statement from TDSB chair Chris Bolton.

Spence admitted on Wednesday that he had plagiarized material used in an article published in the Toronto Star newspaper.

On Thursday, new accusations emerged of other suspected instances of Spence using material without giving proper credit.

"Given the unexpected nature of this situation, we are taking steps to appoint an interim director to ensure stability across the system," Bolton said in the statement.

"As soon as information is available, staff, students and their families will be informed of any further developments."

Earlier on Thursday Bolton told CBC's Metro Morning that the board discussed what to do in the wake of the admission by its top educator that he plagiarized a number of passages for an opinion piece about sports and extracurricular activities he wrote for the Toronto Star last weekend.

Bolton said he and the board's trustees had met with lawyers to discuss options.

When pressed about the possible dismissal of Spence, Bolton replied that trustees planned to meet Friday to deal specifically with the issue.

"I've said that we need to deal with this expeditiously," he said. "As the director, the expectation is very high. So it's actually more incumbent than it is on anybody else. I mean, we're supposed to be setting the example for the system."

Earlier in the day Thursday, Coun. Shelley Carroll suggested Spence should step down, while Coun. Michael Thompson said he did not see how Spence could continue to provide leadership at the school board.

A report today in the National Post newspaper revealed what appear to be several other instances of plagiarism by Spence, including one opinion piece about the mass shootings at a school in Newtown, Conn.

Spence relays an anecdote about talking about the shooting with his 10-year-old son that is very similar to an account published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The National Post report also outlines other cases in which Spence appeared to have used passages seemingly appropriated from a variety of sources.

Bolton said he is aware of the new reports of plagiarism, and said he had informed other school board trustees about it.

Spence hasn't commented directly about the new report, but did apologize about the plagiarized passages in the Star over the weekend.

"I can provide excuses for how and why this happened – that I was rushed, that I was sloppy, that I was careless – but that’s all they would be: excuses," he said in a written apology posted on the TDSB site Wednesday. "There is no excuse for what I did."

But Bolton on Thursday appeared to distance himself and the school trustees from Spence's statement.

"It was [Spence's] statement. It was not developed in conjunction with myself. It is his idea," he said.

"We hired him, we had expectations for him, in terms of being the persona for the Toronto district school board. And that had worked out really well before last Saturday."

In his posting on the TDSB website, Spence said he wrote down notes while researching his article and then wrote the notes into his piece after coming back to work on it on another day.

Toronto students caught plagiarizing automatically receive a failing grade on an assignment.

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