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 committee dealt with the following case between January and April of 2016.
An experienced high school teacher engaged in actions that failed to treat students with respect and dignity and failed to uphold the honour and dignity of the profession, found the Professional Conduct Committee. The committee, which is composed of practicing teachers and public members, hears cases brought against members accused of unprofessional conduct.
In this instance, the facts of the case revealed that the high school teacher had, for two years and with many students, created an unwelcoming classroom climate that was characterized by the humiliation of students, belittling students to the point of making them cry, and comments by the teacher about students’ sexual preferences, physical characteristics or intellectual capacity that were hurtful. Students experienced retribution from the teacher if they raised their concerns with their parents or administration. This same teacher caused further discomfort in his students through uncomfortable comments, questions and innuendo about sensitive topics such as breastfeeding, sexuality and drug use, and made sexist comments. The teacher had, at times, engaged physically with students during incidents related to discipline and student management.
The committee, in rendering its decision, noted that the nature and gravity of the charges were significant; the teacher’s offending actions were pervasive and persistent and affected many students and their parents over the course of two school years. The committee determined that the teacher be suspended for a period of six months and made a recommendation to the minister of education that the teacher’s teaching certificate be suspended for six months.
The inability to hold membership in the Association precludes a teacher from teaching employment in a public, separate or Francophone school in Alberta. Suspension of a teaching certificate further prohibits a teacher from teaching in Alberta, including in band-operated, private or charter schools. Reinstatement of eligibility for membership in the Association is not automatic at the end of a suspension period. The Association’s bylaw 91 outlines the process by which a member can apply to have their membership reinstated.
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