Alberta school boards have been asked by the Education Minister to hand over 10 years of personal information, including all claims of unprofessional conduct by teachers, some of whom have resigned or retired while others continue to work.
Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson requested the information late last month to examine how teachers conduct themselves in the classroom and whether their union unfairly protects underperforming educators. Mr. Johnson wants the data by July 11.
In response Wednesday, Alberta Teachers' Association president Mark Ramsankar has asked provincial Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton if it is legal for school boards to release personal information and allegations of unprofessional behaviour – even if the allegations were never proven.
"As the representative and agent of Alberta's teachers, the association has a responsibility to ensure that their rights and personal information are protected and that school boards respond appropriately to the disclosure order issued by Minister Johnson," Mr. Ramsankar said in a statement.
"I am hoping that Alberta's privacy commissioner will step in and provide guidance."
In a letter dated June 26, Mr. Johnson asked the province's 62 school board chairs to "provide me with details of [complaint] cases in your jurisdiction, as per my authority under Section 77(1) of the School Act. This section reads, 'A board shall provide the Minister with any information the Minister requests in writing.' "
The school boards were then told to deliver "all complaints against individuals who hold an Alberta teaching authority filed with the ATA" along with those who "voluntarily resigned, retired, were suspended or terminated … This includes matters in which severance packages or payouts may have been made."
Mr. Ramsankar has heard Mr. Johnson's claims that there are teachers who have not been held accountable for their actions. What the ATA wants is for the minister "to substantiate his anecdotal reports."
"This in no way justifies the minister's intrusive demand for employment information that, frankly, is none of his business," Mr. Ramsankar said. "School boards, not Jeff Johnson, employ teachers, and school boards, not Jeff Johnson, are responsible for hiring and firing teachers."
It was a Johnson-appointed task force that came up with a recent report that said teachers should be evaluated every five years to maintain their professional accreditation. That happens in other countries and U.S. states but not in Canada.
Canadian public school teachers receive certificates for life from provinces after graduating from teacher education programs and are not required to participate in regular professional development. Many, however, do so on their own. Certificates can be revoked if disciplinary action is taken against a teacher.
An unimpressed Mr. Ramsankar told reporters, "It looks to me like Johnson is on a fishing trip and he's fishing with dynamite."