New act a stronger watchdog over teachers

Kamloops Daily News
October 28, 2011 01:00 AM

Education Minister George Abbott didn't expect praise from the B.C. Teachers' Federation over his proposed Teachers' Act, but hopes it will invite respect.

Outlined Wednesday, the legislation will dump the B.C. College of Teachers and sprout a 15-member B.C. Teachers' Council in its place which will be made up by three teachers from the BCTF, five teachers elected by region and seven members from education groups including the B.C. School Trustees Association, B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association and B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

Additionally, the council will outline standards for teachers relative to their competency, conduct and discipline, the latter of which the college has been doling out very little of.

A report by deputy education minister Don Avison last December found that of 270 complaints filed against teachers over the last eight years, none resulted in disciplinary action against the accused.

A teacher who had been accused of misconduct in the past, be that allegedly accessing child porn, drinking during class, even punching a student, might still carry a clean record.

It all depended how the college's preliminary investigation committee handled the matter as some cases were settled informally and others, where no disciplinary action was taken despite the seriousness of the offence, were not recorded at all.

If this wasn't red flag enough that the GPS was wildly off course, the disciplinary panel that heard cases in past was comprised of mostly BCTF members. The new disciplinary board will be made up of three members, with only one from the teachers' union. There will also be a commissioner who will receive complaint reports and oversee investigations.

Teachers and their union may opt to view this move as a slap but should instead see it as an opportunity for greater accountability to those they serve. Everyone's seen what little faith the public has in police investigating their own, why should teachers be any different? All are arguably professionals tasked with a duty of public trust . . . this removes any perception of bias that they are trying to protect their own.

The changes address major concerns that desperately needed attention and have been allowed to languish for far too long. It's about time.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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