What happens if you’re in trouble?
Nothing causes more anxiety or stress than when a teacher is the subject of allegations or complaints. If this happens to you, take a deep breath, and seek immediate advice from your Federation before responding. Indicate to your principal that you have every intention of cooperating but would like to consult with your OSSTF representative first. If the principal asks you to a meeting that might result in discipline, they have an obligation to inform you of the right to OSSTF representation at that meeting and you have a right to expect that there be no consequences to your exercising that right.
Generally we should make two distinctions; an in-house investigation where the principal has issues they need to deal with but which are not criminal, and situations where outside agencies such as the Police or Children’s Aid Society conduct an investigation.
Generally, concerns about insubordination or allegations of inappropriate language or behaviour that are not criminal in nature will trigger an investigation by administration and may result in a teacher being assigned to home during the investigation. This is not an automatic presumption of guilt and may actually be protective, although it won’t likely feel that way. In some cases you will not be advised initially as to the nature of the investigation or who has made the allegation/complaint.
When meetings do occur, always be truthful but resist the tendency to elaborate too much or rationalize behaviours. At any time, you can request a pause in the meeting to consult with your Federation representative. If the employer imposes discipline, your Federation rep will advise you as to whether it is merited or fair under the circumstances and what options are available to you. In matters related to your employment that are sufficiently serious, you may have access to Federation legal counsel.
If you are contacted by an outside agency such as the police, Children’s Aid Society, or Ontario College of Teachers regarding an allegation against you:
- Do not participate or consent to an interview
- Make no statement to anyone regarding the allegation/charges
- Say “I am willing to cooperate, but I am unable to comment until I contact the Federation and legal counsel.”
- Contact the OSSTF District 14 Office at (705) 748-3444 or 1-877-677-8314
- State that your call is urgent
- If you cannot reach the District Office, call OSSTF Mobile Drive 1-800-267-7867 and ask for the Duty Officer
OSSTF has published a pamphlet in cooperation with the Children’s Aid Society that offers advice to members when it comes to cases that may involve your local CAS. A copy of this pamphlet is available on our website or on the Provincial OSSTF website.
Make notes and keep a record of events including who said what, who was there, who you spoke to about events, etc. It will help you to recall things accurately later and could prove useful in further investigations or proceedings. Keep these notes confidential; do not share them with anybody. Do not approach students or discuss matters either during or after the investigation. Always conduct yourself professionally and maintain your privacy.