Teachers in Ontario will automatically lose their licences if found guilty of sexual misconduct under new legislation introduced by the province.
If passed, the Protecting Students Act would ensure a teacher's certificate would be revoked if a teacher is found guilty of sexual abuse or charges relating to child pornography. The Ontario College of Teachers would also be required to disclose all decisions made by the college's discipline committee.
"We know that the vast majority of our teachers are professionals who care about their students' safety, well-being, and achievement," Minister of Education Liz Sandals said in a statement. "But in those rare circumstances when discipline is required, it is important for Ontario families to be confident in the action that is taken. This proposed legislation will strengthen the authority of the Ontario College of Teachers to take action, while ensuring the process is open and transparent for everyone involved."
The Ontario College of Teachers, an independent, self- regulating body, appointed the Honourable Patrick LeSage to reviews its disciplinary procedures after a media investigation discovered teachers accused of inappropriately touching students or engaging in out-of-class relationships were being protected by the College. In some cases, teachers who committed sexual misconduct or were physically and emotionally abusive towards students were allowed to keep their license.
The College began posting decisions of discipline hearings on its website in 2012.
"We have been working collaboratively with the government to strengthen the disciplinary processes at the college," Michael Salvatori, the College's registrar, said in a statement. "We share the same commitment to ensure that teachers in our schools are providing the best support to students. And in those rare cases where disciplinary action is needed, a fair and transparent process will be in place."
In June 2012, former Justice LeSage released a report outlining 49 recommendations to improve the College's investigation and disciplinary practices, including revoking the licenses of teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct. The government had promised to introduce legislation.
"There needs to be a delineation of matters that should be reported to the College, matters that should be reported to the Board and matters that may properly be reported to either," Honourable LeSage wrote. "Communication will assist with the goal of transparency."
Editor's note: An earlier headline on this story said teachers charged with sexual misconduct would have their licences revoked. It has been corrected to "convicted."