Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) Defence Lawyers

The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) investigates complaints related to professional misconduct, incapacity and incompetence by its members. Of the 238,000 members, there are approximately 90 public hearings per year. A hearing panel of publicly appointed and teacher-elected College members adjudicates and provides decisions on each case. Hearing schedules and decisions are also published for the public to view and access. The Firm defends members facing allegations related to student physical, psychological and sexual abuse, conduct unbecoming, allegations of disgraceful, dishonorable  or unprofessional conduct, allegations of misconduct associated with the Education Act and relevant Ontario Regulations among others.

The Firm’s exceptional background in criminal defence pretrial resolution and litigation often resolves proceedings without any formal disciplinary action or sanctions by the regulatory body. The Firm has successfully defended Nurses, Accountants, Real Estate Agents, Health Care Professionals, Teachers, Financial Service Sector Employees, City of Toronto and Provincial Government Employees, Canada Border Service Officers, Canada Revenue Agency Auditors and many other professionals belonging to regulatory bodies and facing prosecution or criminal charges.

In many cases, School Boards will conduct lengthily investigations prior to a complaint being made to the Ontario College of Teachers. Member’s are often unprepared and do not have legal advice at this point. In many cases, however, Teachers Unions or the Principles’ Council do not provide the member with a lawyer or legal advice during the investigation. Unions for many other professionals such as Nurses or Police Officers will often retain defence counsel at the onset of the allegations to best defend the member early. Many clients come to our Firm a year after the investigation with the Board is complete, being disappointed with the lack of representation from their unions. This ultimately creates more complications for a legal defence with the Ontario College of Teachers.

It is critical to be careful at this point because anything said during the School Board’s investigation will be given to the Ontario College of Teachers. Our client’s often come to us months later after being terminated only to find the process has begun anew with their license on the line.

In the Firm’s File No. 5***** it defended a principle in July 2020 facing allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power over a younger teacher. It was alleged a sexual relationship was being sought as consideration for employment opportunities. The matter was ultimately resolved without any finding of professional misconduct or publication in the blue pages. As professionals, it is important to remember there is a difference between professional misconduct and behavior which can be construed to go beyond professional boundaries.

Jordan Donich has appeared before the Ontario College of Teachers Investigations Committee. In the Firm’s File No. 5****, a teacher was alleged to have physically restrained a child. After lengthily argument, including discrediting alleged witnesses, the matter was resolved without any finding of professional misconduct.

In the Firm’s File No. 4***** in March 2020, it defended a York Region teacher accused of allegedly sending Instagram messages which could be perceived as sexual in nature to a former student. The member was terminated from employment after a lengthily investigation with the school board. After forensic review of the evidence, the Firm was able to establish that many of the messages did not fall within the jurisdiction of the OCT and the matter was resolved before the Panel of Investigation Committee without any finding of professional misconduct or public disclosure.

Teachers, like many professionals in Canada, must be adequately educated, licensed and regulated by the province in which they practice. Each province regulates their professionals in their own way. Each province in Canada is responsible for regulating the professionals working within that province. In Ontario, the Ontario College of Teachers is responsible for regulating the practice of teaching. The goal of the Ontario College of Teachers is to ensure all practicing teachers are held to the highest professional standards of knowledge, professionalism and integrity to ensure the highest level of education.

The College of Teachers of Ontario is responsible for enforcing the Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996, which is discussed in more detail below. They ensure that teachers have received the proper education from an accredited institution prior to beginning their teaching practice, that practicing teachers keep up to date with any necessary on-going education and that all teachers abide by all the regulations laid out in the Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996 and in other relevant statutes. The main goal is to protect the public from the professional misconduct of teachers, to protect the public and to ensure competent education is being delivered to all students. As such, the Ontario College of Teachers also accepts formal complaints regarding licensed members of the College and investigates as necessary. If professional misconduct or unethical behaviour is discovered, the Ontario College of Teachers will also be the regulating body responsible for punishing the offending teacher.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How are Teachers Regulated?
The Complaint Process
What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?
What Happens at a Discipline Hearing?
What Happens at the Fitness to Practice Hearing?
What Types of Acts or Omissions Give Rise to Professional Misconduct Complaints?
What Penalties can Teachers Face as a Result of a Complaint?
How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the Ontario College of Teachers
What Rights do Teachers have During the Complaint Process?

How are Teachers Regulated?

Teachers in Ontario are regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996 which is enforced by the Ontario College of Teachers. This statute is composed of numerous sections containing general regulations, registration regulations, regulations regarding professional misconduct including reporting regulations, regulations regarding the Investigation Committee and the Discipline Committee, fitness to practice teaching, the reinstatement of the members license, qualifications, accreditation of teacher education programs and many more.

The Ontario College of Teachers outlines several regulations dealing with the registration process of becoming a teacher including all the necessary information that must be present on a teachers registration in order for it to be valid. The statute goes on to outline the powers of the Investigative Committee, which is the Committee responsible for investigating complaints filed against members. The section outlines the various duties of the committee as well as their authority to undertake investigations and discipline members. The statute also outlines various regulations relating to professional misconduct. Specifically, the statute lists 27 enumerated acts or omissions that will be considered by the College to be professional misconduct. Some examples include; physically or verbally abusing a student, sexually abusing a student, failing to supervise adequately a person who is under the professional supervision of another, falsifying records relating to the members professional responsibilities, failing to comply with the Act or the regulations or the by-laws, any conduct that is unbecoming of a member, failing to cooperate with a College investigation and practicing the profession while the member is in a conflict of interest.

Committing any of the acts or omission’s listed in the professional misconduct regulations of the Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996 could lead to very serious consequences. If a formal complaint has been filed with the Ontario College of Teachers it is important to contact qualified legal counsel right away.

The Complaint Process

The Ontario College of Teachers accepts complaints made against members alleging professional misconduct, incapacity of incompetence. Virtually any member of the public can file a formal complaint against a teacher. Formal complaints can be filed with the Ontario College of Teachers directly either by mail or email. The complaint must be made in writing or recorded (audio or video) and should include a detailed statement outlining the complaint and include the full legal name of the teacher as well as any other teachers, or other witnesses who may have relevant information regarding the complaint. The full legal name and contact information of the complainant should also be included. It should be noted that there is no time limit on when a complaint can be filed.

What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?

The Ontario College of Teachers investigates all complaints related to the professional misconduct, incapacity or incompetence of its members. Once the Ontario College of Teachers has received a formal complaint in writing or via recording and determined that they have jurisdiction over it, they will inform the member of the complaint and provide them with a copy. The member will then have 35 days to make a formal reply to the complaint. The members reply will be shared with the complainant once it is received by the College. In many cases, the College will utilize their voluntary complaint resolution process. This process allows complaints to be dealt with by the College without a full investigation in order to remedy the situation more quickly and efficiently. The College will determine that a case is suitable for the Complaint Resolution Program if they feel it is likely that the matter could be resolved, in the public interest, without launching a full investigation and/or holding a hearing. During the process, the College will attempt to facilitate an agreement between the affected parties and if an agreement can be reached will have the member sign a Memorandum of Agreement which outlines the agreement. If the member chooses not to participate in the program or the College feels the complaint cannot satisfactorily be dealt with using the program, the file will proceed through the full investigative stages of the complaint process, eventually leading to a contested hearing.

In situations where the file is sent to the Investigation Committee, the Committee will launch a full investigation into the complaint, collecting as much relevant information as possible. Once the Committee has completed their investigation they will hold a meeting to discuss the findings. Neither the teacher nor the complainant will be permitted to participate in person for this meeting. After reviewing the results of the investigation the Committee will come to a decision. They may decide to; dismiss the complaint, admonish or caution the member in writing on in person, provide written remands or advice, refer the matter in whole or in part to the Discipline Committee for a hearing or refer the matter to the Fitness to Practice Committee for a hearing. Once the decision has been made the Registrar will send a copy to the member’s employer and the complainant.

It is important to note that a finding of professional misconduct can have very serious implications on a teachers ability to practice in Ontario. As soon as a member becomes aware that a complaint has been filed they are advised to contact qualified legal counsel. All members of the Ontario College of Teachers are entitled to have legal counsel represent them during all stages of the complaint process. Our Firm can help guide you through this process to ensure you receive the best possible outcome in your case.

What Happens at a Discipline Hearing?

The Discipline Committee hears cases involving the potential professional misconduct and/or incompetence of its teaching members. Once a file is forwarded to the Discipline Committee, they will review the investigation and schedule a hearing. The College and the impugned teacher will both be present at the hearing. During the hearing the Committee will determine whether or not the member is guilty of professional misconduct and/or is incompetent in their ability to act as an educator. Depending on the outcome, the Committee may decide to revoke the members Certificate of Qualification and Registration, suspend the members certificate for 24 months, impose specific terms, conditions or limitations on the members certificate, admonish, reprimand or counsel the member, fine the member up to $5,000, publish the findings of their investigation in a manner considered appropriate, set costs to be paid by the member or set a period during which the member is not eligible for reinstatement or variation of the Committee’s order. Discipline hearings are generally public hearings, meaning any member of the general public may come watch. Only in rare circumstances will the Committee exclude the public from hearings.

What Happens at the Fitness to Practice Hearing?

The Fitness to Practice Committee hears cases involving the potential incapacity of its teaching members. Once a file is forwarded to the Fitness to Practice Committee, they will review the investigation and schedule a hearing. The College and the impugned teacher will both be present at the hearing. During the hearing the Committee will determine whether or not the member is fit to continue their professional responsibilities as an educator. Depending on the outcome, the Committee may decide to revoke the teaching members certificate, suspend their certificate for 24 months, require the member to provide the College with evidence that any physical or mental condition or disorder that previously effected their teaching practice has been resolved prior to the Committee agreeing to remove any conditions it has imposed upon the members certificate and/or set a specified period for which the teacher is ineligible for reinstatement or variation of the Committee’s order.

What Types of Acts or Omissions Give Rise to Professional Misconduct Complaints?

There are many different reasons a member of the public may wish to file a formal complaint against a teacher. Some examples of professional misconduct include; providing false information or documents to the College or any other person with respect to the member’s professional qualifications, inappropriately using a term title or designation indicating a specialization in the profession which is not specified on the member’s Certificate of Qualification and Registration, failing to maintain the standards of the profession, contravening a term, condition or limitation imposed on the member’s Certificate of Qualification and Registration and falsifying records relating to the members professional responsibilities.

What Penalties can Teachers Face as a Result of a Complaint?

As noted in previous sections; there are several courses of action that the Fitness to Practice and Discipline Committee’s may take including; taking no action and closing the file, revoking the members Certificate of Qualification and Registration, suspending the members certificate for 24 months, imposing specific terms, conditions or limitations on the members certificate, admonish, reprimand or counsel the member, fine the member up to $5,000, publish the findings of their investigation in a manner considered appropriate, set costs to be paid by the member or set a period during which the member is not eligible for reinstatement or variation of the Committee’s order.

How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the Ontario College of Teachers

As with any legal matter, the best defence will depend largely on the allegations being made and the facts surrounding the case. It is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately upon receiving notice that a formal complaint has been filed. In some cases, the allegations against the teacher will be unfounded, or will not amount to professional misconduct within the meaning of the Act. In these situations the teacher will indicate that they have not violated any of the rules or regulations surrounding the proper practice of teaching on Ontario. In cases where a more substantive response is required, the teacher may be able to argue that they acted appropriately based on the circumstances. In any case, the best plan of defence is to contact qualified legal counsel as soon as possible to assist in drafting a response to the particular complaint that has been filed against you.

What Rights do Teachers have During the Complaint Process?

The Ontario College of Teachers seeks to always ensure that its members are afforded due process when they have been accused of professional misconduct. As such, the College guarantee’s its members certain rights that will apply when a complaint has been filed against the member. The College will take steps during all stages of the process to ensure; that the investigation will be conducted in a timely and impartial manner, the member will be advised of their risk to seek legal assistance, the member will be informed of the specific allegations that have been made against them, the member will be given the occasion to provide information to the College investigator assigned to their case, the complaint will be reviewed impartially by a panel of members of the Investigation Committee and the member will be provided with the decision of the Committee in writing.

Quick Facts

How are Teachers in Ontario Regulated?

In Ontario, teachers are regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996, which is enforced by the Ontario College of Teachers. The College ensures that those practicing teaching in Ontario abide by all of the regulations outlined in the Act. All complaints made against a licensed teacher or student teacher in Ontario will be investigated by the Ontario College of Teachers.

What Happens when a Complaint is filed Against a Teacher?

The Ontario College of Teachers is obligated to investigate all complaints they receive. Once a complaint is received, the College will send a copy of the allegations to the impugned Member. The Member will then have the opportunity to provide a reply to the allegations, which will be forwarded to the complainant once received by the College. The College will conduct a thorough investigation of their own before determining whether to refer the matter to the Discipline Committee or the Fitness to Practice Committee.

What Rights do Teachers have Throughout the Complaint Process?

When a complaint is made, the College guarantees its Members certain rights. The College guarantees that the investigation process will be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. The Member will be given the opportunity to see all of the evidence being used against them and to provide a reply. Additionally, once a complaint is filed, a Member will be advised of their right to legal representation throughout the process.

What Types of Acts or Omissions Constitute Professional Misconduct?

The Ontario College of Teachers Act 1996 outlines various acts or omissions that are considered misconduct in the teaching profession. Some examples include; failing to maintain the standards of the profession, providing false information or documents to the College, inappropriately using a term title or designation indicating a specialization in the profession which is not specified on the Member Certificate of Qualification and Registration and falsifying records relating to the Member’s professional responsibilities.

What Happens at a Discipline Hearing?

A discipline hearing will be held when the College determines that the Member may have committed misconduct based on a complaint they have received. Both the Member and a representative from the College will be present at the hearing. The Discipline Committee will preside over the hearing, determining whether the Member has committed misconduct and/or is incompetent. If the Committee finds that the Member has committed misconduct, they will determine the correct sanction.

What Happens at a Fitness to Practice Hearing?

A Fitness to Practice Hearing will be held in situations where there is concern regarding the Member’s capacity to practice teaching. A representative from the College and the Member will both be present at the hearing. The Committee will determine whether or not the Member is fit to continue practicing in the profession. If the Committee determines that the Member does not have the capacity to continue teaching, they will determine the appropriate next steps.

What Happens if a Teacher is found to have Committed Misconduct?

Where the Discipline Committee has determined that a Member is guilty of professional misconduct, there is a number of remedies they may utilize. Some examples include; suspending the Member’s Certificate for up to 24 months, imposing specific terms, conditions or limitations on the Member’s Certificate, fining the Member up to $5,000, or admonishing, reprimanding or counseling the Member regarding their behaviour.

Will the People find out a Complaint has been made Against me?

When a complaint is initially made to the College, all information will be kept strictly confidential. Information will also be kept confidential throughout the investigation process. However, disciplinary hearings are open to the public. A list of upcoming disciplinary hearings, including the details of the allegations, is available on the Ontario College of Nurses website.

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