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Professional Advisory Safety in Learning Environments: A Shared Responsibility - Backgrounder

May 22 2013

Why is the College issuing this advisory?

The Ontario College of Teachers regulates Ontario’s teaching profession in the public interest. Professional Advisories are intended to guide members in their professional practice. We have a legal duty and an ethical obligation to the public to educate our 237,000 members. This advisory helps to inform members’ professional judgment to keep students safe and to encourage discussions about student safety. Safety is a daily issue in schools, not only in Ontario but around the world.

To whom does this advisory apply?

This advisory applies to all Ontario Certified Teachers (OCTs) including teachers, vice-principals, principals, consultants, supervisory officers and directors of education. It also affects members working in private and independent schools and elsewhere.

What happens if teachers don’t follow this advice?

Teachers are responsible for their conduct as professionals. Under the professional misconduct regulation, members can be found guilty of professional misconduct if they abuse a student verbally, physically, psychologically, emotionally or sexually. Failing to adequately supervise and failing to comply with duties under the Child and Family Services Act are also considered under the regulation to be acts of professional misconduct. Not following this advice in the professional advisory could lead to issues of professional misconduct.

How do you define learning environments?

For the purposes of this advisory, learning environments include places of learning in and outside the school in which Ontario Certified Teachers are responsible for the safety and well-being of students. This includes, but is not limited to, classrooms, school buses, science and technological studies labs, schoolyards, cafeterias, gymnasiums, off-site facilities and worksites, co-op educational programs and work placements, field trip locations, arenas and sporting venues.

What evidence do you have that there is a need for this advisory?

Questions of safety infuse conversations in education every day. In a 2012 College survey “Keeping Students Safe” roughly eight out of 10 Ontario Certified Teachers said that they have cared for a student with a serious injury such as a broken bone or concussion. And almost the same number said they’ve stopped an activity because it posed a risk to student safety.

The advisory talks about a “4Rs of safety” framework. What are the 4Rs?

Recognize, respond, report and reflect. The framework is intended to help members recognize responsibilities and dangers, respond professionally, report incidents properly and reflect to prevent future occurrences.

Where can teachers go for additional information on this topic?

Teachers should consult their administrator, board, employer, teacher federation or professional association.

101 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON, M5S 0A1, P: 416-961-8800 / Toll Free (Ontario Only): 1-888-534-2222 / F: 416-961-8822 / info@oct.ca

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