Teachers' employment information is not the minister of education’s business, says ATA

Release Date: 2014 07 02

Information and privacy commissioner asked to intervene in board disclosures

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) today asked Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner to determine if school boards can legally disclose to Alberta Education 10 years’ worth of sensitive personal information, as demanded by Education Minister Jeff Johnson.

“As the representative and agent of Alberta’s teachers, the Association has a responsibility to ensure that their rights and personal information are protected and that school boards respond appropriately to the disclosure order issued by Minister Johnson,” said Mark Ramsankar, ATA president. “I am hoping that Alberta’s privacy commissioner will step in and provide guidance.”

The commissioner is being asked to determine whether school boards can legally comply with the order issued to them by Johnson on June 26, which requires them to submit by July 11 all complaints lodged against teachers and all information relating to teachers who resigned, retired, were suspended or were terminated in response to allegations of unprofessional conduct or professional incompetence, whether or not the complaints or underlying allegations were proven.

“The minister has claimed that there are teachers who are not being held responsible for egregious acts, and we have challenged him to substantiate his anecdotal reports,” said Ramsankar. “This in no way justifies the minister’s intrusive demand for employment information that, frankly, is none of his business. School boards, not Jeff Johnson, employ teachers, and school boards, not Jeff Johnson, are responsible for hiring and firing teachers.”

Ramsankar observed that unless the information and privacy commissioner intervenes, the tight deadline imposed by the minister for the disclosure—at a time of the year when school board offices are often short-staffed—will create tremendous pressure for a “document dump,” which could result in sensitive personal information, including medical reports and legal documents, being handled inappropriately.

“As has been his practice, the minister did not consult or advise the Association before issuing his disclosure demand to school boards—so I really have no idea of how the information he is requesting would be analyzed or for what purpose it would be used,” said the ATA president. “It looks to me like Johnson is on a fishing trip and he’s fishing with dynamite.”

Read the Association’s letter to the information and privacy commissioner (which is being copied to school boards) and a transcript of the letter sent to school boards by the minister of education.