Letter: One teaching profession needs one strong process

bill 15Recently, I was proud to introduce Bill 15, Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline Act. Since I first took office, I have been focused on reforming the process of discipline for the teaching profession. In December, I released a statement outlining my commitment to bring legislation forward this spring to improve this process in part due to the Alberta Teacher’s Associations (ATA) statement that they felt did not have an obligation to report its findings to police regarding a case for a former Calgary Board of Education teacher.

I directed my department to review the process, which included engagement with education stakeholders including the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) and College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) as well organizations such as RESPECT Group, the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services and the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre. I also heard directly from teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and current and former students.

Overwhelmingly, I heard that it was time to change and time to modernize this 85-year-old process in Alberta.
Most families, teachers and teacher leaders in the province will never experience the discipline process. This is because far and away the majority of teachers and teacher leaders are outstanding, dedicated professionals who will always prioritize and protect students.

While some critics may try to mislead Albertans into thinking that my motivation is to dismantle the teaching profession or create a “political distraction”. The fact is, increasing transparency by creating a public-facing database of teacher and teacher leader certificates will not dismantle the profession. It will align it with other professions.
Mandating school authorities to require criminal record and vulnerable sector checks for teachers and teacher leaders is not a political distraction; and fast-tracking the cancellation of teaching certificates of those convicted of a serious indictable offence, such as child sexual abuse under the Criminal Code is absolutely in the best interest of students.
Now with Bill 15, Alberta’s teaching profession will be united under a single discipline process that will oversee every teacher, principal and superintendent across the entire system regardless of where they are employed. What’s more, Alberta is not alone. In fact every other jurisdiction in Canada has separated teachers’ union roles from discipline of its own members, and every other regulated profession in Alberta has done the same.

With the creation of the arms-length Alberta Teaching Profession Commission, parents and students can have the confidence that the body charged with investigating and overseeing the discipline process for teachers is objective, transparent and timely.

Bill 15 also introduces new requirements for key individuals in the education system
(including the registrar, newly created commissioner, superintendents, school board chairs, operators of independent and charter schools or early childhood services programs, ATA and CASS) to report to the police where there has been serious harm or a threat to student safety, and reinforces what is already required in the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Our children deserve the absolute best. I look forward to seeing the creation of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission, something which his long overdue.

Adriana LaGrange
Minister of Education

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