Pitfalls and Precautions: Principal abused position to violate relationship boundaries

December 5, 2017
Gaylene Schreiber, Secretary to ATA Professional Conduct Committee

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee. The purpose of the series is purely educational, so some non-essential information from the actual case may be omitted or changed.

A hearing committee of the Professional Conduct Committee declared a principal ineligible for membership for two years and recommended that the principal’s certificate be suspended for two years after finding the principal guilty on three counts of unprofessional conduct for failing to uphold the honour and dignity of the profession.

The committee heard that, in two different relationships, the principal had abused his position of power with a subordinate to attempt to manoeuvre the female staff member into an intimate relationship with him. The committee also heard that the principal had made a separate sexual advance on a third colleague. In this case, the principal exploited a mentoring relationship for personal gratification.

The female staff involved in these situations were affected in a number of ways. One felt emotionally and mentally abused while another indicated she believed her job security was jeopardized. In the third instance, both the teacher who was propositioned and her husband were very upset about the overture.

The principal’s manipulative behaviours were repeated and occurred over a period of several years. He adopted a stance of covertness to avoid detection by other school staff and created an untenable situation for the female staff involved. The committee noted, “The profession expects that school leaders will not act toward colleagues in a manner that causes personal or marital distress. This was not (a) youthful indiscretion, but an insidious and premeditated pattern of behaviour that warrants a very significant penalty…The profession expects school leaders to act as role models for other staff, act in a manner that is trustworthy and that upholds the honour and dignity of the profession at all times.”

Under the Association’s bylaws, a teacher who is suspended from membership in the Association is not automatically accepted back into the profession upon the conclusion of a term of suspension. A suspended member may apply to Provincial Executive Council for reinstatement. Successful application for return to membership is very rare. ❚