Investigation Committee, Discipline Committee, Fitness to Practise Committee
Three College committees manage complaints against members of the teaching profession and this report provides detailed statistical information on the committees’ activities in 2013.
The Investigation Committee conducts reviews 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 serve on a panel, even though they may no longer be members of Council.
The College was contacted about 1,000 times in 2013 by members of the public and the profession, who raised issues concerning College members. About half of these concerns were resolved appropriately at the school or the local school board. The remaining half was dealt with initially by a panel of the Investigation Committee.
Introduction of The Protecting Students Act
Minister of Education Liz Sandals introduced Bill 103, The Protecting Students Act, to the Ontario legislature on September 18, 2013.
Bill 103 reinforces the College’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its investigation, disciplinary and reporting processes. It improves transparency and efficiency for students, teachers and parents.
The proposed legislation is consistent with advice provided to the government by the College in response to an independent review by former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage. Since the report’s release in June 2012, College Council has moved to implement the recommendations that did not require legislative changes. For example, in 2013, the College continued to establish procedures to ensure tighter timelines to investigate complaints and schedule hearings. Committees received additional resources to provide timelier outcomes.
Under the direction of the Investigation Committee, College staff investigate complaints in a fair and impartial manner.
College investigators present the information gathered to an Investigation Committee panel. The panel has the authority to take one of the following actions in a complaint:
- 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 either a Discipline or Fitness to Practise 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 Complaint 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 a 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 one panel member is definitely an appointed member of Council, the public is ensured a role in the hearings 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.
Discipline Committee hearings are open to the public, including those that have been dealt with through the Complaint Resolution Program. The decision of the Discipline Committee panel is final and binding.
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 a case is deemed suitable and the parties agree, the College uses voluntary complaint resolution to resolve complaints. The Complaint Resolution Program is available at all stages of the complaint process and may be an effective alternative to an extended investigation at the Investigation Committee level or to a contested hearing at the Discipline Committee level. Complaints are disposed of through the ratification of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) by either the Investigation Committee or the Discipline Committee.
Discussions and materials shared during complaint resolution are kept confidential. Participation in the program occurs without prejudice to the parties. No one who participates in complaint resolution may repeat or use the information they obtain during the process. When an MOA is considered by a panel of the Investigation Committee, the ratified MOA is provided to the member, the complainant and the member’s employer. When an MOA is considered by a panel of the Discipline Committee, which is open to the public, the content of the agreement is public.
The member and the Registrar sign an MOA. Before the MOA is presented to the discipline hearing panel, the member acknowledges in the agreement that the discipline hearing and the information presented at the hearing are public. The panel at the investigation or hearing stage may, in the public interest, request changes to the MOA. If the MOA is not ratified by the panel, the individuals serving on the panel will not take part in subsequent considerations of the complaint or matter.
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