By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Province is moving ahead to fast-track legislation that the Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange, said will improve oversight of the teacher discipline process. The Students First Act (Bill 85) “brings in several measures to” make the teacher disciplinary process more transparent,” and will restrict the disciplinary role of the ATA. This comes nearly one year after former teacher Michael Gregory was charged with 17 counts of sexual assault and exploitation. LaGrange said she, “was horrified when (she) first read the details of allegations brought forward regarding a former Calgary Board of Education teacher.” LaGrange is now moving forward to split the Alberta Teachers’ Association by removing the disciplinary process from the ATA’s mandate.
LaGrange claims this spur to action is a result of the ATA’s failure to, “protect students from a predatory teacher”, in reference to the new details of a 15-year old case of Gregory’s misconduct. LaGrange said the ATA failed to report Gregory’s admissions of abuse to the police in 2006, which the association was not obliged to do. Instead the teacher was fired and never taught again. Despite LaGrange’s claim that she was, “appalled” that the ATA did not believe they had an obligation to report its findings to police, a recent statement from the ATA said the province was made aware of the ongoing allegations and did not report the concerns to police either.
“The Government of Alberta itself failed to report the case to police when it received the report of the teacher’s conviction of unprofessional conduct in an ATA disciplinary hearing,” reads an official statement from the ATA.
Several former students have joined a class-action multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) claiming the board was made aware of the allegations of abuse, and did not act to protect students. ATA president Jason Schilling pointed out the ATA was not the party being sued for inaction, but rather the CBE.
“In this case, only one party did the job it was supposed to do, and that was the Alberta Teachers’ Association. As a result of our processes, this teacher was removed from the profession and never taught again.”
The release from the ATA wrote that, “LaGrange is spinning a 15-year-old discipline case as cover for the vindictive attack on teachers.”
Although LaGrange has indicated she will bring forward an order-in-council to immediately implement the provision in the Students First Act requiring the ATA to notify the registrar at Alberta Education of all complaints about their members when they are received, a statement from the ATA said the government’s own process lacks transparency and efficacy and that Schilling has been critical of the province’s process and pointed to, “recent cases of superintendents and private school teachers who have been allowed by the Minister of Education to abuse people and continue in the profession.”
LaGrange said that she has instructed her department to start drafting legislation for 2022 that will separate the teacher disciplinary process from the ATA’s mandate and functions.
But Schilling has called the move an “attack” on teachers and added that the proposed plan is, “a sad effort to distract from her own inability to handle the education file.” He also alludes to the highly contentious curriculum proposal and a COVID-19 response which he said “was completely negligent in protecting Alberta families.”
Schilling is calling for educators in Alberta to, “prepare for a vigilant defense of public education like they have not seen before.”