On October 25, 2018, the Ontario Government continued their education reform by announcing Bill 48: The Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act,2018 which is aimed at keeping Ontario’s children safer and ensuring better supports are available for learning. The Government also plans to proclaim existing provisions of legislation providing counselling and funding for students subjected to abuse by a member of the Ontario College of Teachers or College of Early Childhood Educators.
The proposed amendments in Bill 48 include automatic revocation of an educator’s certificate of registration for any act of sexual abuse of a student or child, mandating mathematics testing for new teachers, and providing regulation-making authority to the Minister of Education to establish policies and guidelines respecting service animals in schools.
- Sexual abuse and registration revocation. Bill 48 broadens the definition of professional misconduct under the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007 (Ontario) (ECEA) and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 (OCTA) to include sexual acts prohibited by the Criminal Code (Canada) and prescribed by regulation. The Bill also requires mandatory revocation of a member’s certificate under the ECEA or the OCTA if the member is found guilty of unprofessional misconduct that consists of or includes sexual abuse of a student, a prohibited act involving child pornography, or a prescribed sexual act.
- Mathematics testing for new teachers. In response to a decline in Ontario students’ mathematics test scores over the last five years, Bill 48 would re-enact the requirement that teachers pass a mathematics competency test before obtaining their teaching registration.
- Service animal policies. The Education Act (Ontario) amendment would grant authority to the Minister of Education to establish policies regarding service animals with which school boards would be required to comply. Currently, school boards are responsible for implementing their own policies, consistent with the Education Act (Ontario)and Human Rights Code (Ontario).
Responses from educators
While the Bill continues in second reading, some organizations have already provided statements regarding the proposed changes.
The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) has supported the changes. Earlier this year, the College requested amendments to broaden of the types of sexual offences that lead to a mandatory revocation of a teacher’s license. Further, the College is considering the mathematics testing in light of larger changes to mathematics competency tools, and looks forward to further cooperation between the College and the Government.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) takes the position that the government was premature in introducing teacher testing as a response to lower student math performance. The ETFO notes that teacher testing existed in the past, before other measures were deemed more appropriate. Finally, the ETFO emphasizes public consultation, curriculum assessment, and increased teaching supports as more effective ways to improve math performance.
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) is greatly concerned about the proposed changes contained in Bill 48. The Association is concerned that the changes will give the government the power to alter the composition of OCT committees. Specifically, the government may appoint individuals with no background in education, and the OECTA is concerned that these changes are representative of a general distrust of teachers by the Government of Ontario.
Service animals have become a popular topic in the media, and Bill 48 seeks to require a more consistent approach to determining when a student may attend school with a service animal.
 Ministry of Education “Ontario continues to keep students safer to provide better learning,” Government of Ontario: Newsroom, October 25, 2018, https://news.ontario.ca/edu/en/2018/10/ontario-continues-to-keep-students-safer-to-provide-better-learning.html.