The Manitoba government is introducing the Education Administration Amendment Act (teacher certification and professional conduct), to implement a transparent, accountable process to define, prevent and address teacher misconduct, Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko announced Tuesday (Mar 14).
In a media release, Ewasko said, "The Manitoba government takes the safety of our children and youth seriously. Further to our government's commitment in the 2022 throne speech and following extensive stakeholder engagement, we are introducing legislative amendments that will better protect students in schools and increase the transparency of our processes."
Over the past few months, the Manitoba government engaged with a broad range of education sector partners, including school administrators, teachers, students, advocacy groups, abuse survivors and Indigenous partners, to hear concerns and priorities related to the regulatory framework to prevent and address teacher misconduct, the minister said.
The proposed legislation would define a comprehensive spectrum of behaviours that constitute misconduct, noted the minister, adding this information would be clearly communicated to employers, teachers, students, stakeholders and the general public. Furthermore, an independent commissioner would be established to investigate and respond to reports of misconduct and other concerns. The legislation would also create a public registry of teachers that provides information on the status of a teacher's certificate, added Ewasko.
"The Education Administration Amendment Act builds on actions already taken in Manitoba to improve student safety and we will continue to work with stakeholders to find new ways to address and prevent misconduct in the education sector," said Ewasko. "The Manitoba government is committed to continuing to work with all education partners to explore additional ways to address misconduct by any school staff."
"As the association that represents the largest share of educational employers, we value all teachers who make positive contributions to the lives of our students and schools. It is therefore critical that any alleged or actual misconduct within the teaching profession be investigated and addressed with expediency, fairness and a view to protecting everyone's interest," said Alan Campbell, president, Manitoba School Boards Association. "We support the proposed establishment of an independent commissioner to fulfil this important role and look forward to contributing the expertise of our association to their decisions, as needed."
Other measures the Manitoba government has put in place to protect children and youth in schools include:
- requiring all school staff to complete training programs (Respect in Schools program or Commit to Kids program) designed to empower people to recognize and prevent abuse, harassment, signs of grooming and discrimination;
- requiring schools and divisions to update policies on professional boundaries and individual interactions between school personnel and students;
- requiring schools to report allegations of abuse and neglect for all school staff to the appropriate legal and/or child protection authorities;
- requiring a satisfactory background check, including a Child Abuse Registry check and vulnerable sector search, as part of teacher certification; and
- requiring all schools to provide a safe and caring school environment that fosters and maintains respectful and responsible behaviours, including a code of conduct.
For more information on education and early childhood learning in Manitoba, visit: www.edu.gov.mb.ca