Earlier this year, former British Columbia ombudsperson Howard Kushner was appointed as the new commissioner for teacher regulation.
Howard Kushner’s bio, available on bcteacherregulation.ca, provides us with the following regarding his background and qualifications:
“Howard Kushner is the Commissioner for Teacher Regulation. Howard has extensive experience in administrative law and professional regulation. He taught administrative law at the Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia, and the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta. From 1999 to 2006, Howard was BC’s Ombudsperson. He was the first Chief Legal Officer of the Law Society of British Columbia overseeing the disciplinary process of lawyers from initial intake of complaints through to citation. Since 2012, Howard has practised law in Vancouver providing legal advice to various professional regulatory bodies including the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the College of Dental Surgeons of BC and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC. He has also sat on several disciplinary panels for professionals, including the College of Pharmacists of BC and the Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB).”
Kushner credentials provide us with an understanding of what it takes to be Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, but what exactly does the role entail? As noted on bcteacherregulation.ca:
- “The Commissioner for Teacher Regulation is appointed under the Teachers Act to ensure concerns about teacher competence and conduct are addressed fairly and in the public interest. The Commissioner, an independent statutory decision maker, oversees all discipline processes and considers certification appeals. This includes receiving reports and complaints about the conduct or competence of certificate holders in both the public and independent school systems as set out in the Act.
- The Office of the Commissioner for Teacher Regulation must respond effectively to allegations and concerns of misconduct and incompetence to maintain the public’s trust in educators and the education system. The Commissioner is committed to a fair, expeditious and transparent process for the resolution of complaints against educators.
- The Commissioner does not decide the merits of a case nor does he make any determination of guilt or innocence. He is responsible for reviewing the information gathered and deciding which process, as set out in the Act, is appropriate to address a complaint or report.
- The Commissioner was appointed by Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Education for a term of five years.
- The Teacher Regulation Branch, as the operational arm of the regulatory structure, provides administrative support to the Office of the Commissioner.”
The role of the Commissioner for Teacher Regulation is of significant importance. As we strive for consistency across BC’s 60 school districts, it is important that all stakeholders properly consider their duty to report, which takes on two forms. That of the role of employers, and certificate holders. Once again, bcteacherregulation.ca outlines the process in clear detail:
- Suspensions and dismissals;
- Discipline for misconduct involving physical harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or serious emotional harm to a student or students;
- Other conduct or competence that breaches the standards, if it is in the public interest to do so; and
- Resignations, if it is in the public interest to do so.
Reports must be signed by the superintendent, the independent school principal, or the chair of the authority operating an independent school.
All certificate holders have a duty under section 38 of the Teachers Act to report – in the form of a written and signed report to the Teacher Regulation Branch for the Commissioner’s review – any conduct involving physical harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or significant emotional harm to a student or students, when they have reason to believe that another certificate holder has engaged in such conduct.
Section 17.9 of the Criminal Records Review Act (CRRA) requires certificate holders to self-report promptly to the Director of Certification if they are criminally charged or convicted in relation to a “relevant offence” (an offence listed in Schedule 1 of the CRRA) or a “specified offence” (an offence listed in Schedule 3 of the CRRA), and also requires them to authorize a further criminal record check.
Certificate holders include classroom teachers, vice-principals, principals, directors and superintendents in the public, independent school systems in BC.
Learn more about how complaints and reports are brought to the Commissioner’s attention.”
A .PDF containing more details, titled “Understanding Your Duty to Report,” can be downloaded here. This document outlines guiding principals, examples of issues that must be reported and the general process.
BCSTA is committed to continuing to work with the Teacher Regulation Branch in an attempt to keep boards of education and the districts they serve aware and informed. BCSTA Director Carolyn Broady currently holds a position as a representative on the Disciplinary and Professional Conduct Board.
It remains paramount that all districts adhere to the processes outlined above and appreciate what merits being reported. By establishing consistency across the province, boards of education and school districts will find a clearer path forward when dealing with disciplinary issues.