Boards of Education need to plug hiring loopholes to prevent hiring predator teachers

News broke in the Toronto Star February 08, 2018 issue that a 28 year- old, supply teacher employed with York Catholic District School Board was charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation of a male student. The incidents leading to the charges allegedly occurred  between October and December 2017.  Though the Toronto Star article found at https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2018/02/08/york-region-teacher-charged-with-sexual-assault.html mentioned neither the name of the student nor his age, it seems clear that the school board acted to protect the minor upon learning about the allegations.

According to the Toronto Star report, the assault continued unabated for two long months before it was eventually discovered and information filtered to management and later to police authorities leading to the arrest. In other words, the Board’s workplace systems may have failed a child for two whole months without anyone detecting the problem, let alone doing anything about it.

These facts beg answers to some serious workplace questions. For instance, what system does the Board’s management mandate for principals to use for the early detection of these kinds of workplace abuses?  In this case, did the system fail, and if so what factors led to the system’s failure? Was the principal at the school in question on the ball, or did the principal drop the ball? What, if any, safeguards are implemented in schools, as a workplace, to prevent employee behaviour of this type? Does the Board have a duty to warn children about predatory teacher practices and, if so, to what extent did this occur in this case? Should school management, as workplace guardians, actively monitor their employees’ behaviour to weed out the bad apples?

Teachers know that it is forbidden to have sexual relations with students.  That a recent graduate from teacher’s college would allegedly engage in this sort of conduct, if proven, is reprehensible. The teacher in this case, though charged, has every right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. So, the comments here are of a general, not a specific nature as the teacher’s guilt cannot be automatically assumed.

Today’s recruiters, inclusive of Boards of Education, employ a wide range of sophisticated tools to staff vacant positions. Some of these tools have predictive value. Yet, despite technological advances and sophisticated recruiting tools, teachers exhibiting predatory behaviour pass through the process. How is that even possible, some may ask?

Part of the problem has less to do with the existence of sophisticated assessment instruments available for use at the recruiting stage. In a school environment, a bigger issue has to do with how occasional teachers, and teachers in general, get recruited in the first place. Many Boards struggle with this area as principals and school administrators have plenty of room to escape a board’s oversight reach. Nepotism and other recruiting transgressions are rampant in the selection of occasional teachers at the school level. Principals are skilled at getting the person they wish to become an occasional teacher, regardless of the system’s dictates and processes. While there is no evidence that the occasional teacher alleged to have committed assault in this case benefited from a principal’s meanderings, the fact remains that unless and until the Board of Education plugs this very large loophole in its hiring process, predatory behaviour is likely to continue to pass through the system without any detection at the recruiting stage.  Of course, some boards of education are likely to balk at the costs associated with implementing better workplace systems..

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