NewsWed Jun 17, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST
Ontario Teacher Punished for Speaking Out on Reinstated Sexual Offenders
By Patrick B. Craine
ONTARIO, June 17, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) has taken action against a retired teacher and former OCT Council member after he revealed that the organization habitually reinstates the teaching licenses of convicted sexual offenders.
James Black, who was a teacher in Ontario for 30 years, was elected to sit on the OCT Council from 2002-2003. While on the Council, he served for a time on the Discipline Committee, which is in part responsible for deciding whether to reinstate the licenses of sex offenders. In 2006, Black told CTV News that he thought parents would be surprised to find out that sometimes licenses are reinstated. “Even people that have been convicted ... have the opportunity to become teachers again by making a presentation behind closed doors,” Black said.
While on the Committee in 2003, Black participated in a hearing for Rodney Palmer, a teacher who, in 1990, was convicted of sexual exploitation and imprisoned for 15 months. Palmer had made sexual advances on a 16-year-old student at Brockville Collegiate public school, and, after moving to St. Mary’s Catholic School, brought a 17-year-old student home several times to have sex. After his conviction, Palmer’s license was suspended indefinitely.
At the hearing, Palmer sought a reinstatement of his teaching license, which the OCT granted him. According to CTV News, the only evidence they heard was from Palmer himself, and Black was the only member to vote against his reinstatement.
“The only thing I would suggest to anybody that's had sexual gratification from children is ... stay out of the classroom,” Black told CTV. “You've defiled the profession.”
In 2004, Black was asked by the Ministry of Education to submit a critique of the OCT, a new body that completely oversees the teachers of Ontario, one of only two such governing bodies in Canada. Troubled by his time with the OCT, Black submitted a highly-critical four-page report addressing his concerns, particularly regarding them allowing sex offenders back into the classroom.
“The College of Teachers basically has failed us,” he told CTV in 2006. “Failed the teachers. Failed the students and certainly has failed the victims.”
“Why should they ever teach again?” asked Black. “If these people want to teach again, too bad,” he said. “They have violated that trust.”
After submitting his report, Black says that he was subject to escalating reprisals, and in 2006, he opted to retire, which he says was largely due to the stress of having to deal with the actions being taken against him. In the same year, while running as a candidate for board trustee, Black made his report more public, resulting in media attention.
Palmer filed a complaint with the OCT in 2007, and, after a year-long investigation, Black was found guilty of breaching confidentiality in October 2008. Black is now awaiting a decision regarding his punishment, having just completed hearings.
Seeking help with his case, at the beginning of 2009, Black approached the organization Canadians for Accountability, which work as advocates for whistleblowers. They issued a letter to the OCT on Black’s behalf.
“The case has many of the hallmarks of a typical whistleblowing case,” said the organization, indicating that typically “an investigation is launched into the conduct of the concerned individual, but not into the matter he was reporting.”
“We are concerned that the principles of natural justice have been ignored in this case,” the letter says, “and that Mr. Black is being targeted for speaking out on a matter of public safety. … The allegations against him seem frivolous given the severity of the core issue – that is, the practice of allowing sexual offenders back into the classroom. Indeed, whatever the specifics of this case, it appears that the central issue has not been substantively dealt with.”
The OCT’s Registrar, Brian McGowan, responded to the letter, but did not address the central issue of the licensing of sex offenders.
Rodney Palmer’s case is not unique. According to the 2006 special report from CTV News, they had found from the OCT’s public records that there were 10 other licensed teachers who had admitted sexual misconduct with students, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse.
Canadians for Accountability are calling on all concerned individuals to write to both the OCT Registrat and the Ontario Minister of Education to request the suspension of Black’s disciplinary process, and that they deal with the issues he has raised.
Ontario College of Teachers
121 Bloor Street East
Toronto ON M4W 3M5
E-mail: [email protected]
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Ontario Minster of Education
Mowat Block, 900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1L2
E-mail: The Minister can be contacted via the Ministry Website.