All Ontario teachers found guilty of sexually abusing a student in any way — including inappropriate comments or messages — will automatically lose their licences under new legislation proposed by the provincial government.
The wide-ranging bill, to be introduced Thursday by Education Minister Lisa Thompson, will also require new teachers to pass a math competency test before being allowed to work in any elementary or secondary school.
Although the previous Liberal government introduced legislation around teacher misconduct in 2016, critics said it had too many loopholes because it specifies which acts will lead to the loss of a teaching certificate — intercourse, masturbation, child pornography and genital contact.
But it led to cases where those found guilty of sexual touching or comments by the Ontario College of Teachers were allowed to remain in the classroom.
Thompson’s new Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act replaces the list of abuses with “any and all forms of sexual abuse” against children so that all such misconduct is included — something a number of advocacy groups had called for.
The Bluewater District School Board teacher sent sexual messages to a teenage girl, later threatening to commit suicide if the girl disclosed what he’d done.
At his disciplinary hearing before the Ontario College of Teachers, he pleaded guilty to psychological and sexual abuse but was allowed to continue to teach.
Under the new law, he would lose his licence.
Teachers can apply to be reinstated after five years.
As for math, while the province is consulting parents on curriculum changes, in the meantime it is focusing on teacher skills.
Working with the Ontario College of Teachers, the province wants all new graduates to complete a math test before they can be registered to teach.
The test is intended for all elementary and secondary educators, exempting only those whose specialty is math.
The goal is for the test to be place before the start of the next school year.
Some education faculties have already implemented math tests before graduation, to address concerns about elementary teachers’ weak skills, given they are typically liberal-arts majors.
Faculties will often see students who have a high level of skill, but others who struggle with multiplication or division.
The University of Toronto starts off their program with a mandatory diagnostic test to assess where future teachers are at, followed by math instruction for all of those in first-year, but practices vary from school to school.
The previous Liberal government spent $60 million on a math strategy for teacher training and help.
However, students in Ontario classrooms continue to struggle with the subject, which has been reflected in provincial standardized test results.
Some have blamed the “discovery” math method and called for a more traditional, “drill and kill” memorization approach, while others have urged a more balanced approach.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy