The Newfoundland and Labrador Children’s Advocacy is pushing for better management of teachers who misbehave, saying there’s little parents can do when faced with unresponsive inappropriate behavior is required to be charged with a criminal offense.
Jackie Lake Kavanagh’s comments come as two teachers from Newfoundland and Labrador work their way through the province’s justice system over sex crime allegations against their students.
This outcome is rare, she said, but milder forms of teacher misconduct are not. “It is very important to keep an eye on what happens when allegations of teacher misconduct fall below the criminal threshold because it is really important to reach the criminal threshold,” Lake Kavanagh said.
Misconduct can take on more subtle forms than sexual exploitation or assault, she adds – damaging comments, inappropriate touching and blurred boundaries can all pose a threat to students.
The Child and Youth Advocate have found that in less severe cases complaints about teacher behavior are typically handled by school administrators or human resources staff and kept away from the public.
Instead, Lake Kavanagh recommends that Newfoundland and Labrador adopt a transparent system for handling claims, like other professions, such as dentistry, psychology, and law. Several other provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, have the mechanism, she said.
“Those jurisdictions have public complaints processes, and they report on the outcome of their disciplinary hearings and any sanctions and what the outcome of the investigation is. But none of those jurisdictions. What processes exist in this province,” she stated.
Teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador are also not guided by a specific code of conduct, she said, and she suggested that the provincial government develop those guidelines – then hire qualified professionals to investigate any violations, rather than leaving it to managers and employees.