Recently, there has been news coverage regarding false allegations of abuse being made about teachers. There has been speculation by some that false allegations are on the rise and that there are a greater number of false allegations made about male teachers than female teachers.
The over reporting of teachers, if this is the case, must be contrast to the concern with under reporting detailed in Protecting Our Students, by Justice Sydney Robins, 2000. The report of the Inquiry led by Justice Robins described the failure to report a teacher who had sexually abused students over many years in many different schools, and uncovered a culture of under-reporting of sexual misconduct perpetrated by teachers.
In accordance with the Child and Family Services Act, an individual who is informed about an allegation of abuse, whether it be physical, sexual or emotional, must report that allegation to their local Children’s Aid Society for investigation. In many cases, it is difficult to know whether or not an allegation meets the threshold for abuse; in such cases, school board staff members are told to either consult with CAS to receive direction or to report. Erring on the side of caution is advised. The failure to report an allegation to the CAS might leave a child in need of protection.
School boards must also ensure that staff members are aware of their duty to report and that they understand what must be reported. Although the legislation makes each individual who suspects that a child may be in need of protection responsible for making a report to the CAS, that does not preclude the individual from consulting with a staff member or the CAS to determine whether or not the allegation merits a report to the CAS for investigation.
It is important that school boards have a process to ensure that, when reports are made to the CAS, they are subsequently investigated by the school board fairly, thoroughly and quickly to ensure that those teachers who are fit to return to the classroom may do so. Similarly, in cases where it has been determined by the school board that discipline is appropriate, the process for imposing discipline should be fair; the reasons for the discipline should be transparent; and the discipline should be imposed within a reasonable timeframe.
Boards therefore must balance a number of competing interests. Failure by school boards to act fairly and expediently may result in a grievance by the teacher. If, as suggested in the media, more male teachers are suspected of abuse, there might also be grounds for that teacher to bring a Human Rights Application if they believe that there is a causal connection between their gender and the report to CAS. Moreover, school boards risk civil litigation by families, if a school board employee fails to report and a child is determined to have been in need of protection.
More significant, however, are the circumstances in which a student victim of abuse has no one to speak for them.
The blog sets out a variety of materials relating to the law to be used for educational and non-commercial purposes only; the author(s) of the blog do not intend the blog to be a source of legal advice. Please retain and seek the advice of a lawyer and use your own good judgement before choosing to act on any information included in the blog. If you choose to rely on the materials, you do so entirely at your own risk.