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Pitfalls and Precautions

June 11, 2019 Cory Schoffer, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

Abandoning students is never appropriate

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee.

At a recent hearing of a Professional Conduct Committee, a teacher was facing charges that he had abandoned his classroom and that he had also failed to leave substitute plans.

The committee heard evidence that the teacher left students unsupervised when he vacated his classroom. The teacher had left the classroom in frustration with a difficult group of students. Nevertheless, the teacher never sought help and support to deal with the student behaviour, despite many options being available for him to do so. The teacher made a conscious choice to leave his students in an emotionally charged state.

In abandoning the students, the teacher had not made administration aware that he was leaving, nor did he leave behind any alternative program that could have been delivered by someone else. While it is sometimes necessary to step out of a classroom for a brief time, this teacher simply left the room with no plans or intent to return, or any plan to accommodate for his absence.

Additionally, the committee heard that on another occasion the teacher failed to provide any plans for a previously scheduled absence. The teacher was an experienced teacher who was aware of the steps and procedures for being away from school, including leaving behind substitute plans.

It is inappropriate to leave at-risk students alone without adult supervision. It is never appropriate for teachers to abandon their students and their classroom when a situation becomes too difficult. Failing to provide lesson plans for a substitute teacher creates challenges for a teacher’s students and also for a colleague who arrives at the school expecting to have a plan established for the day. This also impacted school administration, who were required to create and develop plans for the substitute teacher during the teacher’s absence.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has expectations that teachers will treat all students with dignity and respect and be considerate of their circumstances. That did not happen in this case. Further, by failing to provide substitute plans for a scheduled absence, this teacher failed to maintain the honour and the dignity of the profession.

The teacher was found guilty on both charges. He received fines totalling $650 and a letter of severe reprimand encompassing both charges.

It is common for teachers who are fined by the Professional Conduct Committee to have a deadline for payment imposed upon them. In this case, the teacher has 60 days from receipt of the final report of the committee to pay his fines. Failure to do so will result in suspension of membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association. ❚

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