The Professional Conduct Unit is a department of the Ministry of Education that accepts reports on ANYONE who is a certificate holder. Under the School Act that means (teacher, school counsellor, vice principal, principal, director of instructor, assistant superintendent, superintendent – EXCEPT the Secretary-Treasurer).
Below are the important things I have learnt along the way, as well as the advocacy path.
- Parents can absolutely file complaints; it doesn’t need to just come from the district.
- ALL complaints will be accepted for processing.
- Once you submit a complaint, you cannot withdraw it later. Even if you change your mind, the process cannot be interrupted. You can write in that you would like it withdrawn and that will be considered with the review.
- The TRB intake officer will tell you, you need to know the exact name on the certificate holder in order to file a complaint. Not true. As long as you know the person’s name (the name they use in their position) and the district they are in, you can file a complaint and they will match them up in their own internal database. (Districts will tell you they cannot give you the name on the certificate due to privacy reasons. You can file anyways)
- When you file the complaint, it is easy to assume that once you have filed all of your evidence, and you send in the form, you cannot send in more evidence if you come across it at a later date. You CAN submit further information later. The Commissioner has 60 business days to decide if they are going to see action on your complaint or not. I don’t know when the exact cutoff date is, (DO ASK), but you can submit further info and it should be considered.
- After you submit your complaint you should get an official letter 3-5 business days after. This will come with a password for you to access.
- You have the option of being interviewed and it will be recorded. This gives you an added opportunity to add any information and clarify. The Commissioner will listen to your recording.
- If you are not happy with the results and you feel that their response is incorrect, the BC Supreme Court is not your only route. You can file a complaint with Ombudsperson and they will review it to see if they will investigate it. Taking it the BC Supreme Court has financial risks attached to it. Please consult a lawyer.
- The only way to bring issues to the Commissioner is to file a complaint against someone. If multiple people are involved and you don’t want to officially file a complaint against everyone, you can file a complaint on the one person most responsible, and attach all of the information regarding the situation to them. The Commissioner will look at everything and could decide to launch other investigations on other people based on the information given to them. Bringing issues forward without filing an official complaint is not an option…I asked.
- This suspension could be a very useful advocacy tool. Teacher was suspended for not following the IEP and Safety Plan.
- This teacher in the past was disciplined for not following a students safety plan. (See Matter 2)
- There is a time sensitive constraint to this process. I called the intake officer multiple times before I decided to file my complaint and asked as many questions as I needed before I was ready to file. They are going to encourage you to resolve your issues with the school and the TRB is a last resort. If you feel that it needs to be reported, even if the school has “resolved” it. You can still report it anyways.
- When you fill out the form, they give you a box to describe the issue. You can use up more space. Just put “see attachment” and you can have more space. Many issues cannot be fully explained in that tiny box. Don’t let them limit the information you provide.
- If you want to remain anonymous, you might want consider having your PAC or DPAC file on your behalf.
- If you experience any retaliation for filing a complaint, you can file for the conduct of the retaliation. If this is a concern for you, another parent had a good idea that you can write on the form you submit that if you experience retaliation you will file another complaint.
*** NOTE: If you are unsatisfied with the result and feel that the Professional Conduct Unit was not a fair process, you can file a complaint with Ombudsperson and they will review it. ***** HOWEVER****** I went this route and I got a 4 page letter as to why Ombudsperson will not investigate the TRB. There is no actual appeal process for the decision made by the Commissioner. You could file for a judicial review with the BC Supreme Court however, this is highly risky as I was told by a lawyer that the bar set for a judicial review is very high and if you lose, you may end up having to pay the other sides’ lawyers fees. No one would want that. I do encourage you to file a complaint with Ombudsperson, even if chances are… it could lead to nowhere. WHY? Because if they get enough complaints, they could end up doing a systemic review. However, if they don’t hear from anyone, then from their point of view, everything is hunky-dory. We have to keep filing complaints when we are dissatisfied with the process to keep these issues present in the minds of people who could potentially do something about it.
*** ALSO NOTE:
Question to the TRB – How does one proceed if a certificate holder lied or withheld information to create a false impression or mislead the Commissioner during the TRB process?
Answer from the TRB – “You are entitled to file a new complaint about any matter that was not part of the allegations set out in your original complaints. A complaint alleging that a certificate holder lied or mislead the Commissioner should articulate what the certificate holder lied about, when the certificate holder lied, and how you know it was a lie. Similarly, it should set out what information was withheld by the certificate holder and how you know that this information was purposefully withheld.”
Answer from the Ministry of Education – “You ask about teacher conduct during a professional conduct investigation, within the framework of the Teachers Act. My colleagues in the Ministry of Education’s Professional Conduct Unit indicate the responsibilities of certificate holders are set out in the Professional Standards established by the BC Teachers Council. Standard 2 requires teachers to act ethically and honestly. The Teachers Act sets out investigative processes and powers of the Commissioner, and the issue of whether a certificate holder has acted ethically or honestly during an investigation is a matter for the Commissioner to review, in the context of the standards. If the Commissioner believes a teacher has acted dishonestly or unethically during an investigation, the Commissioner can initiate a separate investigation into that matter. The Commissioner can receive complaints about a teacher’s ethical conduct during an investigation from any person and will review and address such complaints.”
HOWEVER, the reality was that the response to complaints filed for lying/misleading the commissioner, the commissioner responded with that this was not in his jurisdiction. AND so the complaint results were NO ACTION. Unfair process. See blog for Call for Fair Process, and TOP 10 Most Shocking Advocacy Discoveries, and Ministry of Education – Wilful Blindness for more info.
You can submit an FOI (Freedom of Information) request after you have received your decision letters to gain access to what they submitted. There is just no guarantee that it wont be heavily redacted. (In my case, all information was withheld under S.22) I got nothing. You could then file a complaint with OICP and an adjudicator could make a decision on whether they can be ordered to hand over the documents.
When I filed my 4 TRB complaints, I took it very seriously. It took me months to come to the final decision and even though I felt it was the right thing to do, I still felt horrible for doing it. I fully took on the seriousness that I am making a decision that will impact someone’s professional career and will have social and emotional consequences for them. I decided to move ahead because even though it was going to make things very awkward and uncomfortable for me and the people involved, if I didn’t move ahead, I would be putting the adults’ feelings ahead of the needs of the kids and FUTURE students. I couldn’t live with that. Public accountability does make a difference in professions. The teaching profession is not the only profession that publicly posts discipline reports of their members. Other professions that have a responsibility to the public and serve a vulnerable group also use this method of accountability to curtail unwanted behaviour.
You do have options if you have hit a wall and feel you aren’t going anywhere. District staff may at some point start to ignore you as a strategy and it may come to a point where you need to start getting external organizations involved in order for you to get anywhere.
Also note: it is common for the district to move staff around when they have issues with them. Even if the teacher has been removed from your child’s class, it just means they have been put back on the TOC list and will end up somewhere else. When you submit a complaint it stays on their file, so if in the future another parent complains about that teacher, the first complaint will be taken into consideration.
There is A LOT of info on the TRB website, so you will need to set aside quite a bit of time to really click on all of the links and follow the maze of info.
Here is the link for the standards certificate holders need to follow.
Here are the Commissioner’s Rules, they must follow.
To see the statistics of how many complaints get through and those that don’t, click below.
For those who would like to submit their decision letter to the BC Supreme Court for a Judicial review, you will have 60 days to do so. For information on the process see link below.
IMPORTANT BLOG POSTS
Here are past blogs with more info on stats and how to get your complaints through the system.
UPDATE: April 18th, 2023
As of April 2023 we have a NEW commissioner with a human rights background. It will be interesting to see if any of the statistics change.