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College Recommends Clearer, Broader Definition of Sexual Misconduct

March 23 2001

March 23 (Toronto) – The Ontario College of Teachers took an important step today to make clearer and broader the definition of sexual misconduct and increase education on the issue. The College's initiative stems from recommendations by the Hon. Sydney L. Robins in his report on sexual abuse in Ontario schools — Protecting Our Students — released in April 2000.

"Sexual misconduct by teachers is rare, but we do know that it happens and we regard it as a serious breach of public trust," said College Chair Larry M. Capstick. "We are offering clearer rules and new guidelines for teachers and their employers so that sexual misconduct will be more effectively prevented, detected earlier and dealt with promptly."

A key recommendation of the College is to broaden its current professional misconduct regulation to include the broader notion of sexual misconduct instead of sexual abuse. Sexual misconduct would include sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexual relationships, as Robins recommended.

Some changes will require legislative changes to the Ontario College of Teachers Act and the professional misconduct regulation made under the Act. Capstick and College Registrar Joe Atkinson will present the changes to Education Minister Janet Ecker when they meet on Wednesday, March 28.

College Council voted to:

  • request the government to amend the Ontario College of Teachers Act to spell out clearer obligations to report suspected or alleged sexual misconduct
  • revise the College's professional misconduct regulation to include reference to "sexual misconduct." This will be defined as "offensive conduct of a sexual nature which may affect the personal integrity or security of any student or the educational environment." This change must still be approved by the provincial cabinet
  • distribute a professional advisory on sexual misconduct from the College to all members of the teaching profession, including classroom teachers, vice-principals, principals, superintendents and directors.

"This is a very good day for the College and for the teaching profession," said Atkinson. "The very strong support from the College Council for these changes sends a signal to the public that this profession takes our responsibilities very seriously and we are prepared to carry them out. I'm particularly proud to be a teacher today."

The recommendations reflect the College's extensive consultation with educational stakeholders, as well as legal opinions from both College counsel and outside lawyers.

The College will also look into other methods of ongoing communication with the teaching profession about sexual misconduct. One important way to influence teachers’ understanding is through the College’s authority to accredit professional learning programs and courses that would include specific content on sexual misconduct for both new and experienced teachers.

The College recently published an article in its magazine Professionally Speaking/Pour parler profession to educate teachers and the public about the issue of sexual misconduct. The article discusses "grooming behaviour" by sexual predators, and some of the common myths and misconceptions about sexual misconduct that may prevent or impede prompt action by authorities.

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