Teachers positive about regulatory change

Nanaimo educators hope the new teacher regulation system will increase public confidence in the profession's oversight body.

Nanaimo educators hope the new teacher regulation system will increase public confidence in the profession’s oversight body, but have concerns about opening disciplinary hearings to the public.

The province introduced legislation last week that dissolves the B.C. College of Teachers and sets up a new system to certify, regulate and discipline teachers.

The 20-member council consisting of 12 elected teachers and eight appointees will be replaced with a 15-member council – three teachers from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, five teachers elected on a regional basis and seven members nominated by partner groups such as the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

The B.C. Teachers’ Council will also include one non-voting government representative appointed by the Education Ministry.

A key part of the new regulatory system is a nine-member Disciplinary and Professional Conduct Board, of which only four members are teachers.

An appointed commissioner will receive complaints and reports about alleged teacher misconduct and conduct preliminary investigations. Each disciplinary hearing will be held by three members this board, only one of whom will be a BCTF member.

These hearings will be open to the public except in cases where there are reasons to hold a closed meeting, such as to protect the identity of a victim.

The province will take over administrative functions of the former college.

The changes are in response in concerns identified by Don Avison, a lawyer and former deputy minister with the B.C. government, who was appointed last year to review the college at the request of the college’s council. His report found that the BCTF’s involvement in the college prevented it from being viewed as an independent, self-regulatory body.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said if the changes increase public confidence in teacher regulation, it is a positive move.

“I still believe we were never in the business of protecting teachers who are harmful to society,” he said. “We want quality, safe people working with our kids. It looks like the intent is to deal with discipline. I don’t want to stand in the way of that.”

But DeGear is concerned the decision to open hearings to the public will shame some teachers unnecessarily.

He believes hearings should be closed, as they were previously, with the results of serious cases posted.

“I don’t necessarily see throwing a member’s name up as doing much more than adding a lot of stress,” said DeGear.

Sharon Welch, school board chairwoman, said the changes are important to ensure unbiased decisions are made and the public is reassured that there is a stringent and effective complaint mechanism.

“It’s not just about what actually happens, it’s about how it looks to the public,” she said.

Welch is concerned that public hearings could potentially drag an innocent teacher’s name through the mud.