Committees at Work
Investigation Committee, Discipline Committee, Fitness to Practise Committee
Three College committees share the responsibility of disposing of complaints against members of the teaching profession, and this report provides detailed statistical information on the committees’ activities in 2015.
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 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 panels are made up of a combination of elected and appointed Council members and may include a member of the roster.
The College is contacted by approximately 1,000 members of the public and the profession annually who raise issues concerning College members. About half of these concerns are resolved appropriately at the school or the local school board. The remaining half represent public complaints and board reports, of which approximately 40 per cent are resolved at Intake while the remaining 60 per cent are dealt with by a panel of the Investigation Committee.
Introduction of the Protecting Students Act
Bill 103, the Protecting Students Act, introduced by Minister of Education Liz Sandals to the Ontario legislature on September 18, 2013, died on the order paper when the legislature was dissolved in the spring of 2014.
Despite this, the College has continued to implement the recommendations from its independent review by former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage, which did not require legislative changes. For example, the College continued to establish procedures to maintain tighter timelines to investigate complaints and schedule hearings. In 2015, 103 hearings were disposed of. This is on par with hearings disposed of in 2014 and up from 88 hearings in 2013.
In 2015, 385 complaints were disposed of. This is equivalent to the number of complaints disposed of in 2014 and an increase from 303 matters in 2013.
At the end of 2015, the Investigation Committee determined that, going forward, it would endeavour to make best efforts to ensure that where a member subject of a complaint is, or was, a principal or vice-principal, and the allegations are relevant to their conduct in that role, the Investigation Committee panel will include a person who is, or was, employed as a principal or vice-principal.
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 on 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
- direct that the imposition of a penalty be postponed for a specific period and not be imposed if specified terms are met within that period.
Following findings of professional misconduct only, the committee may also:
- require the member to be reprimanded, admonished or counselled by the committee
- impose a fine of up to $5,000 payable to the Minister of Finance
- direct that its order be published, in detail or in summary, with or without the member’s name, in Professionally Speaking
- order costs to be paid by the member.
As at least one panel member is an appointed member of Council, the public is ensured a role in the hearings process. The panel also comprises at least one elected member of Council. It 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.
Fitness to Practise Committee
The Fitness to Practise Committee 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, or impose terms, conditions or limitations on the certificate.
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.
Participation in the program occurs without prejudice to the parties. 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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