Protecting students should be more of a priority


Sexual violence comes in many forms. Just because one may appear to be more severe than others doesn’t mean those others can be allowed. When it comes to teachers sexually abusing students, current Ontario policies aren’t aligned with this argument. 

The Protecting Students Act previously only encompassed the specific acts of intercourse, masturbation, child pornography or contact such as genital-to-genital and genital-to-oral as grounds for revoking a teacher’s licence. If a teacher engaged in an act that wasn’t included on the list, they would potentially be able to keep their licence and return to teaching, sometimes just after a brief training period or suspension. 

No one should be able to get away with acts of sexual violence and the Ontario College of Teachers needs to be held to a better standard for dealing with teachers who cross that line in any way. It’s wrong to allow these teachers to continue to teach, and it’s time for the Protecting Students Act to reflect that.   

As explained in a Toronto Star editorial, the province is set to amend its definition of sexual abuse by teachers “as soon as possible.” However, they’re going to amend the Protecting Students Act by simply adding to the list of mandatory licence revocation offenses. 

Simply adding to the list of unacceptable acts won’t stop the problem of allowing predators back into classrooms. It just means they’ll find new ways to twist these rules to their advantage. 

Ensuring the new policy can encompass all sexual contact as grounds for revoking teaching licences is the only way to really step forward. 

The policy as it exists presents an antiquated idea of how to deal with sexual violence. In the past, moving teachers who abuse their students to a different school was thought to be a solution for abuse. Decades later, we’re more aware that sexual violence perpetrators leave behind patterns of abuse. Moving them to different schools doesn’t stop the abuse, it just allows it to continue somewhere else. 

Sexual violence can’t be boiled down to a short list of physical acts. There are an infinite number of ways that someone can experience sexual harassment and abuse from someone in a position of power over them. In the cases explored by the Toronto Star, perpetrators avoided losing their licences because they knew exactly what kind of conduct the existing rules allowed. 

In order to stop the pattern of abuse that follows sexually abusive teachers who are let back into classrooms, the Ontario College of Teachers needs to be required to revoke teaching licences for sexual violence in all of its forms.

— Journal Editorial Board

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