Teacher responsibility for student supervision during behaviour escalation

January 4, 2023 | Kayla Cockburn, Renata Antoniuk

In the recent decision Ontario College of Teachers v Moss, 2022 ONOCT 98 the teachers’ regulatory body considered the role of a teacher in responding to student behaviour causing a risk of physical injury.

The Member was assigned to a classroom for students with developmental disabilities. Established routines were a universal teaching practice that provided students support to manage their readiness for learning.

On a particular day, the Member interrupted a student’s routine by refusing to allow an educational assistant to give the student a snack. The disruption of the student’s routine caused the student to become agitated. The student’s behaviour escalated to physical aggression exhibited towards his educational assistants, a child and youth worker, and another teacher in the classroom. The staff tried to calm the student, while the Member remained seated and took no steps to assist with de-escalation or ensuring the safety of the other students in the class.

The OCT Discipline Committee found the Member guilty of professional misconduct. It noted that the Member:

  1. did not contact the school’s main office for support until asked to do by another teacher;
  2. did not remove the other students present to a safe location in a timely manner, and only did so when asked by another teacher;
  3. did not return to the classroom to check on the agitated student or support staff once the other students were moved to a safe location.[1]

The Member was found to have breached the standard of practice regarding commitment to students and student learning, which provides the following:

“Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.”

When the Member interrupted the student’s routine there was a failure to respect the individualized factors that assist with the student’s self-regulation, which put the safety of others in jeopardy.[2]

The Committee held that supervision of students means more than simply being present in class.[3] Teachers must also take active steps to resolve situations that pose a risk to the safety of staff and students.

The Committee suspended the Member’s certificate for two months.

Takeaway:

Teachers play an integral part of planning and implementation of safety plans. Where possible, removing potential triggers that cause anxiety and agitation is the most effective strategy to maintain safety and well-being in a classroom. In situations where a student does demonstrate escalated behaviour, all staff working in the classroom have an important role to play in de-escalation and ensuring the safety of other students.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to a member of Miller Thomson’s Education Law group.

[1] para 6.

[2] para 9.

[3] para 8.

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