Teacher discipline: What can parents find out about teachers? (CBC Marketplace)

Teacher discipline: What can parents find out about teachers? (CBC Marketplace)

November 17, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


>>This is Marketplace.>>You should feel safe in the school.>>A cross-country test. The first of its kind.>>This teacher was thrown back into a classroom with new kids.>>What’s kept secret about your kid’s teacher.>>What was your reaction?>>Upset. I thought the school didn’t really care.>>Secret files? Dangerous teachers.>>He asked me to go on web cam and just spill something on myself.>>Who’s looking after your child? This is your Marketplace. (♪♪)>>Across the country we all remember our favourite teacher.>>Mrs. Gamble in Grade 5.>>Mr. Chegoback.>>Mrs. Wall, my english teacher.>>My favourite teacher was Calvin Degou.>>Someone who changed our lives for the better.>>And she really got me into reading with the first Harry Potter book.>>She’s the one who got me to like math.>>She was an amazing woman and she was a great teacher.>>Get out of my room!>>Anne-Marie: But a negative experience in the classroom can be just as long lasting.>>Go to the calm down chair and sit.>>Anne-Marie: So what does happen when there’s a bad apple in the classroom? To find out we’re grading each province on the information they share about teachers creating our own unofficial report card. What we find will shock you.>>First stop, Fredericton, New Brunswick. Carlie’s in grade 9 and on most days likes going to school but that wasn’t always the case.>>I felt like I had a book bag of bricks on my back. I felt stressed, I felt worried, I felt in danger. I felt like it was just me and the other students in my class and like I couldn’t do anything. I wanted to do anything to get out of school. I want to like hurt myself, I didn’t want to go to school at all.>>Anne-Marie: Karley’s fear is fuelled by a bully. She says it’s not a fellow student. It’s her elementary teacher. Here’s what she remembers.>>She would yell and scream at us. Arreter, arreter.>>She would also cuss sometimes.>>Sometimes she hit kids’ fingers with ruler or she would tap them with a cane. And it just wasn’t okay.>>Do you guys want peanut butter on celery?>>Yes, please.>>Okay.>>Anne-Marie: Karley tells her mom Gina Merryl. At first she’s not convinced.>>We all had mean teachers growing up who, you know, really in hindsight weren’t that bad and I kept telling her, you know, Karley, it’s not that bad. Get through school, it’s okay.>>Anne-Marie: But soon Gina realizes Karley’s not okay.>>That school year she missed 41 days of school. She would have headaches constantly, bad, bad headaches. Stomach aches, I had taken her to the emergency room, at one point in time, where she was just, the pains were so bad in her stomach anything I did didn’t help.>>Anne-Marie: Desperate Gina turns to the school for help.>>So I approached the teacher first. Spoke to her myself. I then went to the principal and vice principal.>>Anne-Marie: Nothing changes so Gina writes directly to New Brunswick’s education minister. That leads to an investigation and Karley’s teacher is found guilty of unprofessional and inappropriate conduct but the details are vague.>>Can you read me the letter you got?>>Sure. The complaint has been determined to be founded under category 2 misconduct. Please be advised that the appropriate action has been taken.>>Anne-Marie: What was the appropriate action?>>I don’t know. What was your biggest concern, Gina?>>That there was going to be other kids that went through with what my daughter went through.>>Anne-Marie: Gina’s worried. She wants to know if other parents will ever know what happened. (phone ringing) She calls New Brunswick’s department of education to find out.>>Hi. Is there anyway to obtain any information on my daughter’s teacher.>>Oh, unfortunately we’re not allowed to share this information.>>Oh, not in New Brunswick. That’s private information.>>Anne-Marie: Private in the public education system?>>Here’s where we put teacher transparency to the test.>>Hi, there. I’m calling to find out what information you share on teachers disciplines in Prince Edward Island.>>Each province and territory regulates its own teachers so we call each one.>>Hi there, I’m wondering what information you share on teacher disciplines in Nunavut.>>Reporter: Over and over again we’re told that information is completely private.>>We think secrecy like that deserves a failing grade. So on our unofficial national report card, we’re giving a majority of provinces and territories an F.>>Saskatchewan and Alberta they pass but with a D. They will release some data but it’s minimal or hard to access. (♪♪)>>To learn how all this secrecy affects kids in the classroom we head to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s home to the aims institute a think tank on education where we find the perfect tutor. Paul Bennet has been a teacher, principle, and school superintendent. Hey Dr. Bennet. He now studies teacher discipline. He thinks we need more openness.>>Public access would significantly improve the system. It would make everyone much more atune to the importance of performing well and it would give those teachers that are doing a great job and that’s the majority of them some confidence.>>What do you think we should be able to find out?>>Whether teachers have had any current or past indiscretions, whether they’ve been found guilty of any offences, and what steps have been taken to try remediate those.>>Anne-Marie: Information like that might be good for parents, but what do teachers think of their records being public? After school we catch up with Toronto second grade teacher Megan Bruni.>>I think they should have access. I mean the parents do need to give the trust and they should wonder what’s happening at school.>>Anne-Marie: Would public accountability, public access make better teachers?>>It would, because the teachers would be held more responsible and accountable. For their jobs. And with that accountability, the teachers would be more inclined, there’s more of an incentive to do well. To do your best.>>Anne-Marie: She should know. In the province where she works, parents do have access to teacher records.>>Turns out only two provinces make that information public. Ontario and B.C. Both have public online databases.>>You can enter your teacher’s name and then see if they’ve been disciplined before. Transparency like that is worth extra credits so our unofficial report card gives both Ontario and British Columbia a B. Why not an A? Because transparency alone isn’t keeping troubled teachers out of the class. (♪♪)>>Oliver don’t forget your book bag.>>Anne-Marie: Just ask this Toronto mom and her 12-year-old son.>>Here, Let’s get going okay?>>Anne-Marie: When Mimi choi dropped Oliver off at school she had no idea his teacher had been in trouble before for physical abuse on three other kids. Now Oliver is coming forward with his story.>>What did Oliver tell you happened?>>He told me that he was going back to his class after recess… He saw the teacher coming down the Hall and when they met at the door, the teacher grabbed his shoulder and pushed him and Oliver hit his head on the door.>>Anne-Marie: Mimi can’t believe it. The principal calls in police and children’s aid. (♪♪)>>Hi, Oliver. I’m Ralph. I’m a police officer.>>Anne-Marie: They interview Oliver to assess what happened>>So he pushes you across here and then your head hits this side of the door?>>Yeah.>>Does that make sense, this side of your head?>>Yes.>>Anne-Marie: Police don’t lay charges. They tell Mimi there’s not enough evidence of intentiona assault but for Oliver, a line was crossed.>>How did you feel being treated like that by a teacher?>>Surprised, shocked.>>Anne-Marie: On Mimi’s request we’re not showing his face.>>Had anybody ever shoved you like that before, not your friends?>>No.>>Anne-Marie: Certainly not an adult.>>No.>>Anne-Marie: The school does remove the students from class but won’t say for how long.>>What was it like when you didn’t know if he was coming back or not?>>I was kind of scared or nervous and I was hoping that he wouldn’t come back.>>Anne-Marie: Mimi’s anxious too so she begins some detective work of her own, starting with Ontario’s teacher database. What she reads shocks her. The teacher’s discipline record with details of the three previous incidents. Pulled the ear of one young student. Held the arms of another and touched or squeezed a third around the neck. The teacher insists he in no way intended to cause harm.>>What did you think when you discovered that this teacher had been found guilty of physically mistreating kids before?>>It was both horrible and, I guess a little gratifying because it confirmed, you know, what Oliver had experienced. That this was a pattern.>>Anne-Marie: For those offences, the college suspends the teacher for 20 days and orders counselling in anger management.>>Whatever courses he took have done nothing as far as I can tell. (♪♪)>>I didn’t understand that it was a sexual thing.>>Anne-Marie: Broken trust, dangerous teachers. (♪♪)>>Sharpen your pencil. This is your Marketplace. (♪♪)>>Anne-Marie: Our unofficial report card on teacher transparency has given nine provinces and territories a failing grade for keeping teacher discipline secret. Two provinces do share information. B.C. and Ontario. But there’s room for improvement. It can take years to determine if a teacher is guilty. (♪♪)>>Two students in Toronto learned that the hard way. We’re bringing them together for a reunion.>>Come on in.>>Sorry.>>Karman North and Danielle Grey are now in their 20s.>>How’s it going?>>Hi!>>Nice to see you!>>Anne-Marie: They haven’t seen each other in almost 10 years.>>Thanks for coming today.>>Yeah.>>Back in junior high they attended class with the same popular teacher.>>What was Mr. Bradford like?>>As a teacher I guess you could you say he was considered a cool teacher. He was very outgoing.>>I felt very comfortable around him. He made jokes, and he was kind of more of a friendly figure than a teacher figure. I really liked him a lot.>>Gavin Bratford taught music when Karman was in grade 7 and Danielle in grade 8. He befriended both students inside class and out.>>He noticed I was like a bit of a an outcast and so he would say, you know, you and me we’re different. People don’t understand us. It really did start off just establishing a relationship with trust.>>He brought up the fact that if you added him on MSN, which was the messenger back in the day, that he would send you kind of school assignments. And being a teenager in my head I thought that was cool.>>Anne-Marie: But the more they talked, the more disturbing the conversations became.>>He would always ask me do you have any secret ambitions in life and I thought that was a strange thing to ask. He would tell me that his secret ambition was to hit a student in the face with a pie. And then he asked me if he could hit me in the face with a pie.>>Anne-Marie: The messages often centred around food and veered from bizarre… To sexual.>>And he said, maybe I could spill something on you. Maybe I could spill coffee on you or water and then he asked me like, maybe wear a white shirt tomorrow.>>Anne-Marie: Was there ever anything more than chatting? Did he ever send videos or pictures or did you? (♪♪)>>He started asking me to go on web cam and he asked me to go on web cam and just spill something on myself. He was — he pressured me about it. He definitely, like, wouldn’t let it go.>>Anne-Marie: He was persistent.>>Yeah, yeah, very.>>Anne-Marie: Karman keeps the web cam off. So does Danielle but they’re not the only students Gavin Bradford is talking to.>>Mr. Bradford was actually speaking to 21 different students. Did you know that?>>I didn’t know that.>>I didn’t either.>>Anne-Marie: All 21 students are female. (♪♪)>>Anne-Marie: You’re really young, you’re not full teenagers yet. How did you feel when you read this? I knew that there was something off about it and at the same time, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the situation.>>Just really confused because, I mean I just feel like if it had been a few years later I would have thought immediately, okay, this is wrong.>>Anne-Marie: Karman tells her mom. She takes a copy of those messages straight to the principal.>>Apparently the principal went white in the face, completely shocked and upset about it and then he was gone the next day.>>Anne-Marie: Bradford’s gone from the school but it’s up to the Ontario college of teachers to decide if he’ll lose his teaching certificate for good.>>For Karman and Danielle it’s an open and shut case. They don’t expect a decision to take long. So how many teachers have lost their certificates? That’s mostly a secret, too. So through Canada’s access to information laws we request records of all teachers who have had certificates revoked going back 10 years. The process takes months but eventually a national picture emerges.>>Interesting.>>On average, 40 teachers lose their certificates each year. Those numbers should be a lot higher, according to education expert Paul Bennett.>>We know that there’s more incidents going on than are publicly reported and we have a very good evidence that many of the cases are buried.>>Anne-Marie: The numbers we uncover are all over the map. In the past decade some provinces and territories have revoked nearly 200 certificates. Others as few as zero. Details reveal teachers losing certificates for verbal, psychological and emotional abuse. Viewing child pornography on school computers, physical violence. Indecent exposure and sexual assault.>>Well, that’s one of the reasons we need serious reform and we need a process that ensures the public that serious infractions or acts of indiscipline or worse are not tolerated in the school system.>>Teacher Megan Bruni agrees.>>It’s very difficult to be fired as a teacher which I think is silly. I mean, I’m lucky that I have a job. There’s a whole lot of teachers trained out there that don’t have work that are enthusiastic and would do an excellent job. So I think it’s more frustrating to know that there’s ineffective teachers in the job while there are those waiting to get work. (♪♪)>>Failing system?>>Anne-Marie: So the Ontario college of teachers ever contacted either of you?>>No.>>You were never interviewed?>>No.>>We fight for answers.>>Real learning coming right at ya. This is Marketplace.>>Anne-Marie: Most provinces keep information on educators who have been disciplined secret including New Brunswick where Karley’s elementary teacher was found guilty of misconduct. Her mom Gina Merryl believes the teacher is gone for good, until she receives a message on Facebook from a mom with a daughter in a different school.>>This person said that her daughter was going through a very similar situation. Wanted to know if it was the same teacher.>>It was the same teacher, the exact same teacher. I was floored. This teacher was thrown back into a classroom with new kids, new parents, nobody knew, maybe of the story. And she was doing it all over again.>>Anne-Marie: Moving teachers around is a dirty secret in the school system.>>Tell me about this term passing the trash.>>So a pattern exists where teachers that are troublesome, are having trouble with the kids, or are collecting parent complaints get passed on to another school. It also conceals from the public what’s actually happened.>>In Toronto Oliver’s teacher moved to his school after being disciplined for physically abusing three students where he taught before.>>After his run-in with Oliver the teacher’s gone for the rest of the year but now they’re told he’ll be back in September.>>What was your reaction?>>Upset. I thought the school didn’t really care. They didn’t want to have any interaction with him.>>Not wanting her son to face the teacher again Mimi pulls him from the school.>>And you had to leave not the teacher.>>Right.>>So you got the worst part.>>Uh-hum.>>Anne-Marie: The outcome still brings tears.>>I have some tissues if you want… (♪♪)>>Anne-Marie: And Oliver’s not the only one getting upsetting news. When Karman and Danielle were in junior high, their teacher Gavin Bradford was caught sending sexual messages to 21 female students including them. The Ontario college of teachers investigates to determine if his teaching certificate should be revoked but Karman and Danielle hear nothing.>>So the Ontario college of teachers never contacted either of you?>>No.>>You were never interviewed?>>No.>>Anne-Marie: Did they ever talk to your parents?>>No.>>Anne-Marie: Finally, almost 5 years later they’ve graduated by the time headlines on their food fetish teacher hit the news. The story became an international scandal. The Ontario college of teachers eventually found Bradford guilty of sexual abuse and revoked his certificate but too late. He’s already been teaching in Scotland for at least two years.>>Almost five years between the complaint coming forward and his certificate being revoked, there was nothing to let anybody know what had happened to you or to you or to 19 other girls.>>It’s not right. I mean he basically got a fresh start. There should be faster movement because there’s a huge difference between somebody coming with allegations and hears the conversation with a teacher in your school board.>>Anne-Marie: We asked the Ontario college of teachers about the Bradford case. They won’t comment on specific files but do say their time lines for actions are improving.>>Let’s check on that. We review the colleges last 100 cases and find the amount of time from incident to decision is just shy of four years.>>For teacher Megan Bruni that’s too long for students and the accused.>>It’s a possibility that if the teacher is guilty of that wrongdoing, then they’re still working in the classroom with children and then if the teacher is not guilty, they have that hanging over their head or not working and their reputation is on the line for that amount of time.>>Anne-Marie: Mimi’s also worried about time. Six months ago she filed her own complaint with the Ontario college of teachers. They’ve just told her they need more time to investigate.>>Mimi’s not waiting around.>>Have a great day.>>Thanks.>>Bye.>>Anne-Marie: Oliver’s already enrolled in his new school.>>There are some hopeful signs of change across the country. Saskatchewan just uploaded their own online database of teachers. It won’t reveal past findings but future disciplines will be posted and in New Brunswick, the department of education tell us they’re now reviewing the information they make public. Too late for Karley but she’s learning to trust teachers again.>>Phys-ed, how are you doing there?>>Good. We started square dancing.>>Square dancing? [Laughter]>>Anne-Marie: Now she wants to do what she can to help fellow students.>>Karley, why did you decide to talk to us?>>I feel like you will be able to get the message out and like show that we should have like a voice.>>Charlsie: You threw your coffee cups in recycling. And we found them here.>>Tyana: There it is, it’s in the garbage only.>>Asha: From what’s in your eggs. Are you ready to hear the results?>>David: To secrets about the meat you buy.>>We would dip it in blood. We would re-wrap them and put on a new sticker. Girl: Disgusting!>>David: Toxins in your kids jewellery.>>David: It has taken us no time at all to find someone who would use cadmium.>>Charlsie: Busting your cell phone bills.>>Woman: We are paying far too much.>>Asha: Facing racism.>>Woman: Go back to where you’re from. I’m like where, Halifax?>>Charlsie: And exposing sexist dresscodes.>>Woman: They’re selling sex.>>David: We take it all on.>>Asha: Tell us>>Charlsie: What you want us>>David: to investigate next>>Asha: Because this is your Marketplace. (♪♪)