Monday, December 4, 2017

Stop teachers from sexually assaulting students

Teacher Richard Knill’s case highlights much that is wrong with Ontario's
legislation on protecting students.
We’re in the midst of a social revolution on what constitutes sexual harassment and assault. There’s been a sea-change in attitudes in just the few weeks since Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men have been toppled for acting in ways that were once condoned.

The law hasn’t caught up with these changes. And nowhere is that so clear as in Ontario, where the law aimed at protecting students from sexual abuse from teachers needs to be made much stronger. Though Bill 37, the Protecting Students Act, became law only 12 months ago it is already dangerously out of date.

Indeed, even when it was passed, the bill was criticized by the Ontario College of Teachers for not being tough enough.

Chief among the concerns the college did not mention in its critique, however, was the one where the bill is most lacking.

As it stands, Bill 37 only protects students from the most heinous and explicit sexual acts. As the Star’s Victoria Gibson and Vjosa Isai reported on the weekend, if the sexual abuse doesn’t involve a very specific series of acts – intercourse, masturbation, child pornography, or contact such as genital-to-genital and genital-to-oral – the law does not require the offender’s teaching licence to be revoked.

That means teachers can engage in various other sexual acts such as kissinig, groping, or even (as in a case reported by the Star) licking a student’s breast, and the college is not required to take away their licence. That doesn’t mean it can’t. It just means it isn’t required to do so.

As a result, as examples reported in the Star show, too often a teacher can be found responsible by the college for sexually assaulting a student and still keep their licence.

With that in hand they become the problem of the school board that employs them. Firing teachers who have managed to hold on to their licence is notoriously difficult, and school boards routinely shy away from even trying to get rid of them. Instead, some boards simply transfer them to another school where they may offend again. So common is the practice that it even goes by a code name: “Pass the trash.”  (more...)


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