College of Teachers revokes teaching licenses as a result of speech

September 29, 2022 | Kayla Cockburn, Nadya Tymochenko

Two recent cases heard by the Ontario College of Teachers addressed the behaviour of teachers who were espousing racist and disparaging remarks both in and outside the classroom.

Ontario College of Teachers v Dimarco, 2021 ONOCT 142

Along with allegations that he verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abused students, the Member in this case spent class time teaching Holocaust denial and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

The Member prepared a slideshow for students titled “Zionism slideshow” to support instruction to students with uncreditable and unapproved sources to argue that the Holocaust was untrue and that the Israeli government was a malicious force that exaggerated the Holocaust to manipulate the world. The slideshow did not reflect Board-approved curriculum and contained YouTube clips that were subsequently censored by the platform for hate speech.

When the school planned a trip to certain memorial sites related to the Second World War, including a concentration camp, the Member openly disparaged the trip as propaganda. He told his students that “…they were intentionally being taken to a Holocaust memorial site when they first arrived and would be fatigued from travelling, in order to prevent students from questioning the Holocaust narrative and to play on their sympathies.” [par. 14]

The Member also espoused 9/11 conspiracy theories to his students – particularly that the US government caused the collapse of the World Trade towers.

Accompanying the Member’s remarks inside the classroom, he provided students with a link to his rock band’s public website. Some song titles were “911 IS A LIE” and “The Counter-Narrative”; the songs contained lyrics describing, among other things, violent methods for murdering the members of the 9/11 Commission. In his music videos, the Member was seen brandishing several semi-automatic weapons and seemingly drinking alcohol.

The Discipline Committee found that the Member’s conduct and statements were abuses of his position of trust and authority over his students. The Committee strongly condemned the Member’s conduct and found that his conduct discredited the teaching profession at large requiring that his license be revoked.

Ontario College of Teachers v Kaprusiak, 2022 ONOCT 72

In this case, the Member posted racist and derogatory views on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Scribd. While the Member did not teach at a school board, he was employed as a private tutor.

The Member posted pictures of people in public, without their consent, and wrote racist and offensive comments. Some comments suggested that members of certain religious and/or ethnic groups were predators, pedophiles, rapists, etc.; as well stating that Black, Caribbean, Jewish, Chinese, and/or gay people were engaging in forms of criminal activity.

The Member did not cooperate and failed to appear at his discipline proceedings and continued instead to post material online, similar to that which was the subject of the discipline process.

Demonstrating his lack of governability and remorse for his conduct, the Discipline Committee revoked the Member’s teaching license and ordered the Member to pay $15,000 for the time, expense, and resources spent by the College over his failure to participate.

These cases remind us of the important role of teachers who hold positions of trust and influence over their students, as was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ross v New Brunswick School District No. 15, [1996] 1 S.C.R. 825, and strong regulation of behaviour that might derogate from trust in public education.

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