Pitfalls and Precautions: Be careful in sharing criticism of colleagues

April 30, 2019 Cory Schoffer, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

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.

A professional conduct committee recently heard the case of a teacher who undermined students’ confidence in other teachers by speaking to students about a conflict she had with another teacher. Additionally, the teacher was charged with speaking to parents about her conflict with her colleague.

The committee heard that the teacher returned to her classroom following a difficult meeting with her principal. The teacher proceeded to share with the students that she would be leaving the school after the school year was over, and that this was because the principal did not respect the teacher. Additionally, the teacher shared with parents that she would be leaving the school, and that the reason for her departure from the school was the principal.

The teacher was found guilty of unprofessional conduct. The teacher received a letter of severe reprimand for each of the two charges. The teacher also received two fines, totalling $500. If the teacher fails to pay the fines within 90 days of receipt of the hearing committee’s written decision, she will be declared ineligible for membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

The Code of Professional Conduct does not prohibit teachers from offering criticism of their colleagues, including their colleagues in school administration. What the code does do is spell out how these criticisms are to be properly raised. Discussing your criticisms of your principal with students and with parents is never appropriate. These people are not deemed to be proper authorities. It is not relevant that the teacher may have previously shared her concerns with her principal if she then chose to share these same concerns with people who were not proper authorities, like students and parents. ❚

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