Piotr Pilarski has retracted and apologized for tweets made on Twitter in which he accused the ATA of protecting pedophile teachers.
Having earlier deleted the tweets, Pilarski states that, while his comments could be understood as indicating that the ATA is unconcerned about or condones pedophilia or is supportive of pedophiles as teachers, this was not his intention. He also states he didn’t mean to indicate that the ATA does not take appropriate steps to discipline teachers who are found to be pedophiles or who have been found to have committed child sexual abuse.
He acknowledges that such statements are untrue and apologizes to the ATA for the offending remarks. In consideration of his retraction and apology, the Association has discontinued its legal action against Pilarski for defamation.
Pilarski’s tweets were posted between May 27 and 29, 2014, in reaction to controversy triggered by Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s public rejection of recommendations of the ATA’s Professional Conduct Committee concerning the suspension of the certificates of several teachers who had engaged in unacceptable sexual behaviour with students. Johnson claimed that the recommendation that the teachers’ certificates be suspended was insufficient.
He chose instead to cancel the certificates of the teachers involved, even though concurrent suspension of the teachers’ memberships in the ATA effectively prevents them from teaching in a public, separate or francophone school. The Association notes that since 1936, only one teacher whose membership has been suspended has succeeded in restoring their membership.
Among the offending tweets posted by Pilarski was the following: “The #ATA is soft on pedophiles and that doesn’t work for Albertans. Full stop. period. Nothing else.” In a similar vein, he posted: “The ata is soft of [sic] pedophiles and you want Albertans to take your side. You disgust me. Dont [sic] know how you sleep at night.” Another said: “The facts are simple ... the ATA does mot [sic] cancel certificates for pedophole [sic] teachers. Period.”
Pilarski has a significant presence on social media and is active in conservative political circles. He is currently with Merit Contractors, an organization of employers in the construction sector, and, consistent with the views of that organization, has been a vociferous critic of unions in the province.
ATA President Mark Ramsankar welcomed Pilarski’s retraction and apology. “Mr. Pilarski has done the right thing and set the record straight—and that has always been the Association’s objective. We are prepared to engage in legitimate public debate over the full range of issues involving education and the role of unions and, like everyone else, Pilarski is free to have his say. But we are not willing to stand by and allow untruths about Alberta’s teachers and their Association to go unchallenged,” said Ramsankar.
Ramsankar stated that teachers and the ATA maintain high standards of professional conduct and practice and have no tolerance for those who emotionally, sexually or physically abuse children. “A person who abuses a child simply does not belong in a classroom,” said Ramsankar.
Read Pilarski’s retraction and apology.❚