Allegations of Physical Assault
A member calls provincial office to request legal assistance because the police and Children’s Aid Society (CAS) are investigating an alleged physical assault. A complaint was filed after the teacher placed her hand on the shoulder of a student while sending him to the office for his disruptive behaviour in class.
Counselling and Member Services staff advises the member not to discuss the situation with anyone, including the principal. The teacher is also advised to prepare a report of the incident that will be examined by the Association's legal counsel. Legal counsel will discuss the matter with the member prior to the teacher’s meeting with police and the CAS. In many cases, legal counsel is able to have these complaints dismissed quickly through conversations with police and CAS. However, some cases go further, including investigation by the Ontario College of Teachers.
More frequently than ever before, teachers are being investigated under charges of physical assault because they have touched students. Assault is defined as an intentional act that causes a person to believe that he or she is about to be harmed. This broad definition may explain why this teacher’s actions led to a CAS/Police investigation.
Members involved in this kind of incident are strongly urged to contact OECTA for legal advice before speaking to the principal, other school board officials, police or CAS. Teachers often feel that explaining the situation will help, but the Association cautions that any statements a teacher makes outside of legal counsel could be used against them. For example, statements could be used to determine whether the member’s actions were motivated by anger, or exhibited a lack of control that would require further investigation or even charges.
For further information, please review On Thin Ice: Maintaining Professional Boundaries, on how to reduce the likelihood of allegations and how to manage investigations.