The Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB) is mandated under the Teachers Act to regulate the professional conduct and competency of TRB members, primarily teachers.
Keep copies of all correspondence you receive from the TRB as well as any other documents or information you may have related to the allegations. You will be asked to provide these documents to the BCTF with your request for legal aid.
3. If the TRB contacts you and you already have a legal representative, ask the TRB to contact your legal representative. If you do not yet have a legal representative, advise the TRB that you would like to obtain legal advice before responding. If necessary, ask that any deadline be extended until you have an opportunity to consult a lawyer—this request should not be refused unnecessarily by the TRB.
Prior to 1987 the Ministry of Education issued teaching certificates. Certificates were non-expiring unless they were removed by the ministry due to teacher misconduct. This generally only occurred in response to criminal convictions for serious violent and/or sexual offences. More minor misconduct was dealt with through discipline by the employer and the federation.
In 1987 the British Columbia College of Teachers was established through legislation. The Teaching Profession Act provided a statutory mandate to regulate the conduct and competency of certified teachers in British Columbia. The Act established a self governance structure headed by a council with a majority of councilors was elected by teachers of the profession. Sub-committees of councilors made decisions on qualifications, fitness and discipline. All staff, including the registrar, were under the employ and direction of the council.
In 2011 the provincial government repealed the Teaching Profession Act and replaced it with the Teachers Act. The Act dissolved the BC College of Teachers and established a new system for teacher certification, regulation, and discipline administered by the Ministry of Education. A new Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB) has been created within the ministry. Many of the functions performed by the college continue as part of the TRB with former college staff continuing their work under the employ and direction of the ministry.
Some elements of self government are retained. Teacher representatives have a voting majority on the new BC Teachers' Council. The council is a policy setting body which determines the standards for the profession and for teacher education programs.
The council consists of:
The council has authority to:
The Discipline and Professional Conduct Board will be appointed by the minister from teachers of the council. The board will consist of:
The board’s role appears to be limited to providing members to serve on discipline hearing panels and certification appeals. Hearings are before panels of three. Only one member of a hearing panel can be an individual appointed by the BCTF or elected by teachers.
The commissioner is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor on the recommendation of the minister to oversee professional conduct and discipline manners.
The commissioner reviews all reports regarding teacher discipline, conduct or competency and determines whether to:
The Act gives the commissioner sole authority over all discipline matters which are resolved without a hearing. This is the vast majority of all discipline cases. Very few matters require a hearing.
If a matter goes to a hearing, the commissioner appoints the hearing panel.
The current Commissioner for Teacher Regulation is Ana Mohammed.
The director of certification is appointed through the ministry pursuant to the Public Service Act. The director of certification:
The TRB reviews teacher conduct which falls into the following categories:
The TRB has published Standards for the Education, Competence and Professional Conduct of Educators in British Columbia (See www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/teach/standards-for-educators for current version.) These standards where carried over from the BC College of Teachers. The new BC Teachers’ Council may revise the standards in the future.
The standards articulate the commonly held values and attributes of the teaching profession. Prior to the publication of the standards, the standards existed as unwritten understandings among teachers of the profession regarding how teachers should behave.
The standards are not a complete list of specific things that a teacher must or must not do. Teachers are expected to carry out their professional duties in a manner which is consistent with what can be reasonably expected of a responsible teacher.
There is no doubt that certain types of behaviour, such as sexual or physical assault of students, violate the professional standards for teachers.
More borderline is behaviour which results from inexperience, lack of support, poor judgment, and/or a momentary loss of control. Many incidents occur in the practice of teaching which in retrospect are regrettable. Not all of these show professional misconduct on the part of the teacher. Conduct must reach a certain level of severity to merit professional discipline.
Matters may come to the attention of the TRB from a wide variety of sources. The following are most common:
Once the TRB receives a report or complaint, the teacher will be provided with written notice of the complaint.
At this point the teacher may seek assistance from the local. The teacher should be directed to immediately apply for legal aid. Our legal aid application form is available on the BCTF website or through BCTF legal. The legal aid application should have all relevant documents attached including those relating to employer discipline proceedings.
It is very important that teachers receive advice from the union or a lawyer before responding to letters or other forms of communication from the TRB.
TRB staff generally keep notes regarding discussions with teachers, including casual telephone conversations. Comments made by teachers may be used against them in later proceedings. Teacher should not admit any wrongful conduct and should not express frustration and anger in conversations with TRB staff.
The initial review of the complaint does not involve a full investigation but it does involve collecting information from the employer and other sources. The employer is required to provide all requested information including documents regarding unrelated complaints and investigations.
Employers should provide a copy of documents disclosed to the TRB to the teacher but in practice they rarely do so without prompting. Legal counsel should ensure that boards comply with their statutory obligation under section 16(9) of the School Act to send a copy of all records disclosed to the TRB to the teacher.
A thorough submission should be provided to the TRB on behalf of the teacher in order to ensure that any concerns set out in the employer’s materials are fully addressed.
Although prepared by a lawyer, submissions should not be overly legalistic. Submissions should provide a sympathetic narrative which explains the teacher’s behaviour and satisfies the conduct concerns of the TRB.
The commissioner is not well positioned to decide disputed facts. Where allegations are minor, disputed allegations should be noted in a relatively brief manner. The main focus of the submission should be on assuring the commissioner that, regardless of the merit of the allegations, there are no serious conduct concerns that need to be pursued by the TRB.
Where allegations are very serious and are disputed by the teacher, submissions should emphasize other proceedings where the allegations were determined to be unfounded and any evidence which shows that it is unlikely that the allegations could be proven at a hearing.
The commissioner may decide not to take further action if s/he determines that any of the following apply:
The Teachers Act provides for a matter to be deferred if the commissioner determines that it is in the public interest for it to be dealt with in another process before action is taken by the TRB.
The commissioner may order that a matter be investigated. Investigations are carried out by TRB staff. The investigations usually take between six and 18 months to complete.
Under the newTeachers Act, the commissioner has very express authority to compel participation in investigations. Our position is that this authority must be exercised in a reasonable matter with appropriate deference to:
We have expressed the following concerns to the college and the TRB regarding their investigation procedures:
The lack of disclosure of information and documents to teachers during the investigation means that their ability to respond to allegations is compromised. For this reason we often recommend that teachers wait until receiving an investigation report before providing a full response. Once the investigation is complete, we are in a better position to assess the specifics of the allegations and what evidence there is against the teacher.
We can then provide facts and documents that support the teacher’s explanation of what occurred.
At the completion of the investigation the teacher is provided with an investigation report. This report describes the information gathered by the investigator. Relevant documents are attached. The investigator does not reach any conclusions about what occurred or make any recommendations.
The TRB generally provides the teacher with 30 days to respond to the report. The time limit may be extended if a request is made with valid reasons.
It is important to provide the TRB with a thorough response to the report. The response should answer the allegations and also describe positive aspects of the teacher’s background and teaching record. Any mitigating factors, such as stress related health problems, should be fully explained. The teacher should indicate sincere regret for any conduct with is clearly inappropriate or unprofessional. The teacher should also show a willingness to engage in remedial activity such as workshops, courses, counseling or medical treatment.
The commissioner reviews the investigation report and any response to the report submitted on behalf of the teacher. The commissioner may decide not to take further action, defer the matter, propose and informal resolution or issue a citation for a hearing.
Hearings take place before a hearing panel consisting of three teachers of the discipline board. Only one panel teacher can be a teacher elected or appointed by the BCTF.
Hearings are public unless there are circumstances which justify restricting public access.
A panel, after a hearing, may make any of the following findings:
If there is a finding of misconduct or conduct unbecoming, the committee may impose the following penalties:
The Panel may also recommend or order participation in remedial activities.
A finding of incompetence can result of a wide variety of consequences including requirements to:
Under the Teaching Profession Act, college hearing panels had general authority to require teachers to pay for some or all of the costs of a hearing. Despite this awards of costs were rare and generally confined to cases where the length of proceedings has been extended as a result of unreasonable conduct by the teacher.
Under the Teachers Act, teachers can only be required to pay costs the hearing if the panel considers the conduct of the teacher to have been improper, vexatious, frivolous or abusive during the hearing.
Following a decision to discipline a teacher, the TRB must publish the decision, including the teacher’s name, in the TRB newsletter and on the TRB website.
Currently there are no practices in place to limit the length of time a matter is published.
We have encouraged the TRB to develop policies and practices regarding this.
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