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Why the school can't always tell you if it's investigating your complaint

November 19, 2013 - 12:00 PM

VERNON - If you ever complained about something your teacher did, and thought the school didn’t do anything about it, it could be they simply didn’t tell you.

Professional misconduct in the classroom has made more than one headline in the North Okanagan lately. In Vernon, a teacher agreed to quit the profession after being investigated over a geology lesson, and in Enderby a math teacher was suspended for making inappropriate comments, using alcohol measurements in math equations, and refusing to let a student go to the bathroom.

These breaches of professional conduct, published by the Teacher Regulation Branch online, are matters of public record. But investigations don’t always get that far. When they don’t, it may seem like the incidents never happened at all.

Diane Renisch, director of teaching personnel and curriculum in the Vernon school district, says students may not be told how their complaints are being handled because of privacy requirements. 

"When a teacher is investigated, the person who raised the matter is not advised on the outcome or perhaps even if an investigation was undertaken,” Renisch says. “We are bound to confidentiality."

When a complaint is made, the school district and superintendent are notified at once. If the incident involves a possible crime, the RCMP are alerted as well. The Vernon Teacher’s Association is informed and either the president or a staff member will represent the teacher throughout the investigation process.

"Once the investigation is complete, the findings are discussed with the superintendent and a decision about next steps is made from there,” Renisch says.

If the superintendent recommends a suspension, the board meets with the teacher and union representative. Dismissal may be considered if student safety is a concern or the behaviour is reoccurring.

While a student might not know if anything was ever done about their complaint, they can be assured nothing would be done if they didn’t come forward.

"We endeavour every year to communicate to students that if something is happening, they need to tell an adult that they trust,” Renisch says. “We have counselors assigned to every school, (and) principals and vice principals establish good rapport with students, and we advise them of help lines and websites to report incidences."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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