By: Hargun Grewal
Regulatory bodies are not-for-profit organizations that exist to regulate different professions in the interest of protecting the general public. Many regulatory bodies exist in Ontario, however, one that is directly tied to the interests of the province is the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). The OCT is a regulatory body for teachers based in Ontario, they uphold standards of teaching across the province and ensure all educators are behaving ethically and acting in accordance with guiding principles. The OCT handles the certification of teachers along with disciplinary measures so there is accountability if anyone abuses the responsibilities that come with teaching. The authority of the respective regulatory body depends on what is written in legislation regarding it, however, most commonly regulatory bodies have the authority to fine individuals, suspend licenses and/or privileges, and even revoke your right to practice entirely.
This article will address how to proceed if your regulatory body, in this case the OCT, writes to you regarding any violations or complaints made against you. Throughout this process of responding to any alleged complaints or violations two main values must be emphasized, natural justice and procedural fairness. Natural justice and procedural fairness are concerned with how a decision is made rather than the end result, however, if the process to achieve a decision was fair then the end result is most likely to be fair as well.
Commonly, there are four main components that comprise natural justice and procedural fairness in this process. However, these are just guiding principles along with a proposed overview, the specific details can vary amongst the various regulatory bodies. The four components are:
The right to know your case
The right to an impartial/unbiased decision maker
The right to have an opportunity to be heard
The right to receive a decision along with the decision’s rationale
When undergoing this process, you should be aware of the concept of progressive discipline and this should be highlighted to the potential decision-makers. Progressive discipline allows for professionals, in this case educators, to understand their mistake and any opportunities for improvement. Progressive discipline provides individuals with the opportunity to do better even if a mistake is made. However, numerous factors are weighed when determining what specific disciplinary measures should be taken depending on each case. These factors can be described as one that may be mitigating or aggravating. Mitigating factors are aspects that should be considered to reduce consequences because of external circumstances. These can include whether a personal situation affected judgement, if you are new to the position, or if it was the first time a mistake was made. An aggravating factor are aspects that should be considered to suggest that a mistake is deserving of a penalty or discipline. These can include whether a pattern of behaviour is established based on previous actions or if the mistake was actually premeditated.
The entire process of undergoing this process through a regulatory body can definitely be daunting as you can be intimidated by unfamiliar vocabulary in the policies or even the size of the organization you are going up against. However, there are some best practices to follow that will help greatly throughout the process. If you are financially able, hiring a lawyer that specializes in education law may be the right path for you as they have strong background experience in what you may be dealing with. This is your career, so you need to take this into account when considering whether or not you would like support. However, if you decide to undergo the process without external support such as a lawyer, then it becomes your responsibility to understand what is the best way to navigate the process.
Hargun Grewal is in his final year at McMaster University. He has been a student intern with Battick Legal since September 2020.