Written Apology to a Parent
A teacher calls OECTA’s Counselling department seeking advice concerning a request by the principal for a written apology to a parent. The parent has alleged that the teacher verbally berated their child during the course of a reprimand. The teacher wants to know whether she should comply with the request for an apology and what is the consequence of agreeing to provide an apology? The principal thinks that an apology from the teacher will appease the parent and student.
OECTA advises that any apology, written or verbal, could be used as an admission of wrongdoing by the teacher in future proceedings regarding the matter. Before the teacher contemplates providing any form of apology, we should be absolutely certain that the matter will not put her in any professional liability. There is never any guarantee that an apology will appease the parent. The parent may be motivated to use the apology as a source of complaint to the Children’s Aid Society or the Ontario College of Teachers. As well, the employer could use the apology to discipline the teacher. The superintendent may decide to impose discipline regardless of any assurances given by the principal.
In 2009, the Ontario government passed the Apology Act, which suggests that “an apology…does not constitute an express or implied admission of fault or liability by the person in connection with that matter.” OECTA is concerned that the language in the Act might lead members to quickly comply with a request for an apology. OECTA continues to advise members that the Act should not be seen as an opportunity for teachers to comply with every request made for an apology. The Apology Act does not remove the possibility that a complaint could be referred to the College of Teachers or the Children’s Aid Society. The parent or the school administration could continue to see a teacher’s apology as an admission of guilt and seek further retribution. The Apology Act also states that “nothing in that Act prevents an apology from being admitted in evidence.” Prior to providing any response in these circumstances, members are advised to contact their local OECTA unit office, or if not available, the Counselling department at Provincial Office.