Three College committees deal with complaints against members of the teaching profession and this annual report provides detailed statistical information on the committees’ activities in 2011.
The Investigation Committee conducts a document review of information related to all complaints. The Discipline Committee holds hearings on complaints referred to it related to alleged professional misconduct or incompetence. The Fitness to Practise Committee holds hearings on complaints referred to it related to alleged incapacity.
Three-member panels make decisions by considering the information related to a complaint. The panels are made up of a combination of elected and appointed Council members and may include a member of the roster. The College maintains a roster of experienced panel members who may be called on to act in this capacity, although they are no longer members of Council.
The College is contacted about 1,000 times a year by members of the public and the profession who raise issues concerning College members. About two-thirds of these concerns are resolved at an appropriate local level within the school or the school board.
In 2011, the ongoing focus for these committees was revising certain practices to ensure they carry out their responsibilities in the public interest.
For example, the Discipline and Fitness to Practise committees have implemented an updated version of their rules of procedure and resource manual while the Investigation Committee has received additional training on complaints that are frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process. The IC committee also approved a process allowing prior matters to be considered when investigating complaints.
As well, the department implemented the Investigation and Hearings Scanning and Tracking System otherwise known as iSTAR, which allows for greater efficiency in tracking and aggregating information.
Under the direction of the Investigation Committee, College staff investigate formal complaints in a fair and impartial manner.
College investigators present the information gathered to a panel of the Investigation Committee who may do the following:
- refuse to investigate a complaint if it determines that the complaint does not relate to professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity
- refuse to investigate a complaint if it determines that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process
- not refer the complaint to a hearing
- caution or admonish the member in writing or in person
- remind or advise the member in writing
- ratify a memorandum of agreement reached through dispute resolution
- refer the matter to a Discipline or a Fitness to Practise hearing.
The Discipline Committee considers allegations of incompetence and professional misconduct that are referred to it by the Investigation Committee (and sometimes by the Executive Committee). If a panel of the Discipline Committee finds the member guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence it may do one or more of the following:
- direct the Registrar to revoke the member’s teaching certificate
- direct the Registrar to suspend the certificate for up to two years
- direct the Registrar to impose terms, conditions or limitations on the member’s teaching certificate
- postpone, reduce or cancel certain conditions if alternate conditions are fulfilled
Following findings of professional misconduct only, the committee may also:
- require the member to be reprimanded, admonished or counseled by the committee
- impose a fine of up to $5,000 payable to the Minister of Finance
- publish its order, in detail or in summary, with or without the member’s name, in the College’s magazine
- order costs to be paid by the member.
Since at least one panel member is an appointed member of Council, the public is given a very definite role in the disciplinary process. The panel is also comprised of at least one elected member of Council. The panel makes decisions by considering the evidence related to the allegations and submissions of the College and the member.
All Discipline Committee hearings are open to the public, including those that have been dealt with through the Dispute Resolution Program. The decision of the Discipline panel is final and binding.
The College regularly asks independent experts to review key aspects of the College’s practices to ensure that we continue to serve the public interest effectively.
During the summer 2011, the College commissioned Patrick LeSage, former Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court, to review our processes in the area of investigations and hearings. The College has asked him to complete his review by May 31, 2012. His report will be made public by the College.
Fitness to Practise Committee
The Fitness to Practise Committee hears matters and determines if a member’s physical or mental condition makes them unfit to carry out professional responsibilities or if a member’s teaching certificate should be made subject to terms, conditions or limitations. Fitness to Practise hearings are not open to the public in accordance with the Ontario College of Teachers Act. The panels make decisions by considering the evidence related to the allegations and submissions of the College and the member.
If a panel of the Fitness to Practise Committee finds a member to be incapacitated, it may direct the Registrar to revoke the member’s teaching certificate, suspend the certificate for up to two years, impose terms, conditions or limitations on the certificate, and postpone, reduce or cancel certain conditions if alternate conditions are fulfilled
When the case is deemed suitable and the parties agree, the College uses voluntary dispute resolution to promote the resolution of complaints. The Dispute Resolution Program is available at all stages of the complaint process and may be offered as an alternative to an extended investigation or contested hearing. Complaints are disposed of through the ratification of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) by the Investigation Committee in the majority of cases, and also by the Discipline Committee.
All discussions and materials shared during dispute resolution are kept confidential. Participation in the program occurs without prejudice to the parties. No one who participates in dispute resolution may repeat or use the information they obtain during the process. It is only at the discipline hearing which is open to the public that the content of the memorandum of agreement is made public.
Before an MOA, signed by the member and the Registrar, is presented to a discipline hearing panel, the member acknowledges in the MOA awareness of the fact that the discipline hearing is public and so is the information presented during the hearing. The panel may, in the public interest, request changes to the MOA. In the event that the MOA is not ratified by the discipline panel, neither the College representative nor the individuals serving on the panel may take part in the subsequent considerations of the complaint.
In 2011, College representatives continued to meet with principals’ organizations, teachers’ federations and other stakeholder organizations to exchange information. Sessions include discussions about emerging issues, professional conduct and strategies for the appropriate resolution of complaints.