What Is Unprofessional Conduct?Top of page

Unprofessional conduct is behaviour by an ATA member that exhibits any of the following characteristics:

  • Is detrimental to the best interests of students, the public or the teaching profession.
  • Contravenes the Teaching Profession Act or the Code of Professional Conduct.
  • Has the potential to harm the standing of teachers generally.
  • Leads to a conviction on an indictable offence.

A member who refuses to cooperate with an investigator appointed by the executive secretary may also be charged with unprofessional conduct.

The Association does not have the authority to investigate the conduct of teachers employed in charter or private schools in Alberta. Complaints about the conduct of such teachers should be addressed to the minister of education.

Section 23(3) of the Teaching Profession Act prohibits the ATA from disciplining members for conduct related to collective bargaining, the administration of a collective agreement, any matter under the jurisdiction of the Labour Relations Board or any matter that arises under sections of the School Act concerning the employment of teachers. Nor can the ATA discipline members for incompetence, a matter that is handled under the Practice Review Process.

Who Can File a Complaint?Top of page

Anyone who has concerns about the conduct of an ATA member—including parents, other teachers or a member of the public—can ask the ATA to investigate the member’s conduct.

How Do I File a Complaint?Top of page

Making a complaint about unprofessional conduct initiates a formal, legalistic process that can have very serious consequences for the member being investigated. Depending on the circumstances, a member found guilty of unprofessional conduct can face penalties ranging from a reprimand to a fine to a suspension or cancellation of membership to a recommendation for suspension or cancellation of certification. Therefore, anyone having concerns about the professional conduct of an ATA member, should begin by contacting the ATA's Member Services Program Area to ensure that the discipline process is the best mechanism for addressing the concern.

A complaint about a former member must be lodged within five years of the day on which the former member ceased to be a member.

To make a formal complaint about the professional conduct of an ATA member, download, fill out and mail or fax to the ATA's executive secretary a Request for Investigation of Alleged Unprofessional Conduct form.

How Does the Discipline Process Work?Top of page

The process for members charged with unprofessional conduct not involving an indictable offence differs somewhat from the process followed when an indictable offence is involved. Both processes are outlined below.

Unprofessional Conduct Not Involving an Indictable Offence
  1. The person making the complaint fills out and mails or faxes to the ATA’s executive secretary a Request for Investigation of Alleged Unprofessional Conduct form.
  2. The ATA investigates the complaint. In extreme cases, the executive secretary may temporarily suspend the teacher's ATA membership pending the outcome of the investigation. The member being investigated has the right to appeal the suspension to the Court of Queen's Bench.
  3. Based on the outcome of the investigation, the executive secretary takes one of three possible actions:
    1. Concludes that no hearing or further action is warranted either because sufficient evidence is lacking or because the charge is frivolous or vexatious.
    2. Concludes that the matter, though not requiring a hearing, is of sufficient concern to warrant an informal meeting with the accused to review the situation and to identify the concerns of the profession and the public. Known as an Invitation, this informal dispute-resolution process is outlined in the ATA's Discipline Bylaw. If the Invitation is successful, no hearing is ordered. If it is unsuccessful, the executive secretary orders a hearing.
    3. Concludes that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a hearing and orders that a hearing committee be constituted to hear the matter.
  4. The executive secretary advises the member and the complainant of the decision.
  5. If the executive secretary has determined that no further action is warranted, the complainant may appeal that decision to the Complainant Appeal Committee. The fee for initiating such an appeal is $250. The Complainant Appeal Committee may uphold the decision of the executive secretary not to order a hearing (in which case the matter is closed) or refer the case to a hearing committee.
  6. If the case is referred to a hearing committee, the hearing is open to the public unless the complainant or hearing committee requests privacy. The hearing committee determines the member's guilt or innocence. If the committee determines that the member is guilty of unprofessional conduct, it may issue a reprimand, cancel or suspend the member's ATA membership, recommend that the minister of education cancel or suspend the member's teaching certificate and/or impose additional penalties, including a fine of up to $10,000. The committee must justify any decision not to recommend cancellation or suspension of the member's teaching certificate.
  7. The executive secretary advises the member, the complainant, Provincial Executive Council and the registrar (that is, the director of professional development and certification for the Department of Education) of the hearing committee's decision. If the committee has recommended cancellation or suspension of the member's teaching certificate, the executive secretary also advises the minister of education.
  8. The member or Provincial Executive Council may appeal the decision to the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee. The hearing is open to the public unless the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee requests privacy.
  9. After hearing the appeal, the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee may quash, vary or confirm the hearing committee's decision; make its own decision; or refer the case back to the hearing committee.
  10. The executive secretary advises the member, Provincial Executive Council and the registrar of the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee's decision. If the committee has recommended cancellation or suspension of the member's teaching certificate, the executive secretary also advises the minister of education of the decision.
  11. The member may apply for a judicial review of the decision.
Unprofessional Conduct Involving an Indictable offences
  1. Upon learning that a member has been convicted of an indictable offence, the Association automatically initiates an investigation. Any superintendent who believes a member has been convicted of an indictable offence must lodge a written complaint with the Association’s executive secretary and inform the registrar. Any member who believes another member has been convicted of an indictable offence must inform the Association by filling out a Request for Investigation of Alleged Unprofessional Conduct form and mailing or faxing it to the executive secretary. Any member who has been convicted of an indictable offence must immediately inform the ATA of the conviction. A complaint about a former member must be lodged within five years of the day on which the former member ceased to be a member.
  2. The ATA investigates and confirms the offence. In extreme cases and where the situation warrants, the executive secretary may temporarily suspend the teacher's ATA membership pending the outcome of the investigation. The member being investigated has the right to appeal the suspension to the Court of Queen's Bench.
  3. The executive secretary refers the case to a hearing committee and advises the member and the complainant of the referral.
  4. A hearing takes place. The hearing is open to the public, unless the complainant or hearing committee requests privacy. The hearing committee may not subpoena witnesses who testified at the member's criminal trial.
  5. The hearing committee considers penalty but not guilt (which is automatic in cases involving indictable offences). The committee may issue a reprimand, cancel or suspend the member's ATA membership, recommend that the minister of education cancel or suspend the member's teaching certificate and/or impose additional penalties, including a fine of up to $10,000. The committee must justify a decision not to recommend cancellation or suspension of the member's teaching certificate.
  6. The executive secretary advises the member, the complainant, Provincial Executive Council, the registrar and the minister of education of the hearing committee's decision.
  7. Either the member or Provincial Executive Council may appeal the decision to the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee. The appeal hearing is open to the public, unless the committee requests privacy.
  8. The Professional Conduct Appeal Committee may quash, vary or confirm the hearing committee's decision; render its own decision; or refer the case back to the hearing committee.
  9. The executive secretary advises the member, Provincial Executive Council, the registrar and the minister of education of the Professional Conduct Appeal Committee's decision.
  10. The member may apply for a judicial review of the decision.

View a flow chart summarizing the ATA's discipline process.

What Statutes Govern the Discipline Process?Top of page

  • Sections 16 to 60 of the Teaching Profession Act establish the overall process that the ATA follows in dealing with members accused of unprofessional conduct.
  • General Bylaws 78 to 89 of the ATA contain additional details relating to the discipline process.
  • The ATA’s Code of Professional Conduct sets out the standard of conduct expected of ATA members.