Question: Recent news reports of sexual harassment in the workplace brought to light by the Harvey Weinstein case and the #MeToo movement on social media reminded me of my experience as a first-year teacher more than 40 years ago. I did not report my veteran male colleague because I believed that informing school or ATA officials without informing him first would violate the Code of Professional Conduct. My fear, isolation and inexperience prevented me from telling him of my plan to report him. I am now retired and, with so many cases of workplace harassment, I regret my silence so many years ago. Can you clarify the ATA’s expectations in reporting sexual harassment, given the expectations of the Code of Professional Conduct?
Answer: Items 13 and 14 of the Code of Professional Conduct establish protocols for the proper handling of concerns about professional performance of a colleague. Quite simply, the general rule is that a teacher reports professional performance matters to proper officials after speaking with the colleague. However, there are clear exceptions to this expectation.
Allegations of sexual harassment can be very serious. Section 24(3) of the Teaching Profession Act requires that members “make a complaint forthwith to the executive secretary relating to that conduct.” In other words, you don’t have to tell your colleague that you are turning him in. You can freely report to the Association on the possible unprofessional conduct of another member without discussing the matter with the colleague.
An apparent violation of the Criminal Code can also lead to immediate action. If you are assaulted, you should call the police. You do not need to engage with the member.
You can always call the Association to discuss the alleged unprofessional conduct and to obtain advice on how to proceed. You do have a duty to report the unprofessional conduct to the Association. The Association can assist with next steps to ensure that your rights (and the interests of the public and the profession) are respected. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated, period. Call Barnett House or SARO and ask to speak to the Member Services duty officer. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).