Statutes Governing the ATA Discipline Process
- Sections 16 to 60 of the Teaching Profession Act establish the overall process that the ATA follows in dealing with members accused of unprofessional conduct.
- ATA General Bylaws 84 to 96 contain additional details relating to the discipline process.
- The ATA’s Code of Professional Conduct sets out the standard of conduct expected of ATA members.
Defining Unprofessional Conduct
Unprofessional conduct is behaviour by an ATA member that exhibits any of the following characteristics:
- Is detrimental to the best interests of students, the public or the teaching profession.
- Contravenes the Teaching Profession Act or the Code of Professional Conduct.
- Has the potential to harm the standing of teachers generally.
- Leads to a conviction on an indictable offence.
A member who refuses to cooperate with an investigator appointed by the executive secretary may also be charged with unprofessional conduct.
Section 23(3) of the Teaching Profession Act prohibits the ATA from disciplining members for conduct related to collective bargaining, the administration of a collective agreement, any matter under the jurisdiction of the Labour Relations Board or any matter that arises under sections of the Education Act concerning the employment of teachers. Nor can the ATA discipline members for incompetence, a matter that is handled under the Practice Review Process.
FAQ: Filing a Complaint
Can I file a complaint against a teacher?
The Teaching Profession Act (TPA) gives the ATA authority to discipline teachers and any person an avenue to make a complaint against a teacher. Sections 16-66 of the TPA governs and outlines how the discipline process works. Note the TPA applies only to ATA members, that is, K–12 teachers in Alberta with the exception of teachers employed by
- charter schools,
- private schools and
- band-operated First Nations schools.
A complaint is called a Request for Investigation of Allegations of Unprofessional Conduct.
What will happen with my complaint?
The ATA investigates all completed requests for investigation through the following steps:
- ATA executive secretary appoints an investigating officer, usually an executive ATA staff member trained to conduct discipline investigations.
- Investigating officer usually first meets with you (the complainant) to gather all information and evidence about the complaint.
- Investigating officer meets with the teacher (investigated member) to discuss the complaint, to ensure that the particulars of the allegations are understood and to ask for a response to the allegations.
- Investigating officer collects other evidence from witnesses or documents (provided by both the complainant and the investigated member) as required.
- Based on information collected, the investigating officer makes a recommendation to the ATA executive secretary as to what should happen next.
- Final decisions related to the recommendation is made by the ATA executive secretary.
What decisions can be made by the ATA executive secretary?
See three possible decisions below:
- No further action happens when it is determined a teacher’s behaviour has not contravened the Code of Professional Conduct (the Code).
- Referral to Invitation Process happens when the teacher’s breach of the Code is more suited to this informal and confidential cautions process.
- Professional Conduct Committee Hearing happens when there is sufficient evidence substantiating the allegations of unprofessional conduct. At the hearing the ATA presents the case against the investigated member.
You will be notified in writing of the decision.
Can I appeal the decision?
Only when the executive secretary’s decision is “no further action” can you ask for a review by a Complainant Review Committee. If you request a review, a $250 fee must be paid within 30 days of you receiving the decision. The committee will consider the information as to why you believe the decision was not reasonable. Reviews are conducted in confidence, and it is your choice whether to attend and make representation.
Do I need to attend the Professional Conduct Committee hearing if that is the decision?
You are not required to attend a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) hearing unless you are scheduled to be a witness. If you will not be called as a witness, you can attend the hearing as an observer because PCC hearings are open to the public (including media). At the hearing the ATA will present the case against the member.
Does the ATA help the teacher being investigated or charged?
When it comes to matters of unprofessional conduct, the ATA does not provide representation to the teacher being investigated or charged. A teacher wanting representation may, if they choose, obtain their own counsel to defend them.
If found guilty, what happens to the teacher?
A PCC hearing committee can impose a variety of penalties (also referred to as orders) if they find a teacher guilty of any or all charges against them. These penalties include
- a letter of reprimand addressing their unprofessional conduct,
- fines of up to $10,000 per convicted charge,
- suspension or cancellation of their ATA membership and
- a recommendation to the minister of education that their teaching certificate be suspended or cancelled.
Penalties may be imposed in a variety of combinations. Written decisions of PCC hearings are made available to the public on request.
What does a suspension of ATA membership mean?
A suspension of ATA membership takes immediate effect and makes a teacher ineligible to be employed as a teacher by any school board within the jurisdiction of the ATA, that is, any school in Alberta’s public, separate or francophone school jurisdictions. Suspensions are for a specific period of time, which is determined by the hearing committee. A teacher whose membership is suspended is free to teach at a charter, private or band-operated First Nations school but must make an application to the ATA if they wish to return to work at a public, separate or francophone school in Alberta. Reinstatement is not automatic.
Suspension of membership is a serious penalty and the majority of teachers receiving it do not pursue reinstatement.
What does a cancellation of membership mean?
A cancellation of membership has the same effect as a suspension, but is permanent. Once a teacher’s ATA membership has been cancelled, the teacher may teach at a charter, private or band-operated First Nations school but can no longer teach at any school under the ATA’s jurisdiction, that is, a school in any Alberta public, separate or francophone school jurisdiction.
Can the ATA suspend or cancel a teacher’s teaching certificate?
The ATA can impose penalties related to ATA membership but not those related to teaching certificates. It can make only a recommendation about the suspension or cancellation of a certificate to the minister of education.
The minister, who is responsible for the certification of all teachers in Alberta, makes the decision of whether to accept the recommendation of the ATA. The minister also has the authority to reinstate a teaching certificate that has been suspended or cancelled.
In addition to responsibilities related to the ATA discipline process, the minister oversees the discipline process that applies to those teachers outside the ATA’s jurisdiction, that is, Alberta teachers in charter, private or band-operated First Nations schools as well as superintendents and central office staff.