The B.C. government is replacing the B.C. College of Teachers with a new structure that will reduce the B.C. Teachers Federation's control over disciplinary issues.

Education Minister George Abbott introduced the changes with new legislation in Victoria on Wednesday.

The new B.C. Teachers Council will still be made up of a majority of BCTF members, but the teachers will not have a majority on the new disciplinary and professional conduct board and its individual disciplinary panels.

 There will be 15 people in total on the council, including:

  • Three BCTF appointees.
  • Five teachers elected by members from around the province.
  • Seven education partners appointed by the government made up of school trustees, principals, and other officials.
  • One non-voting member/observer appointed by the government, likely a deputy minister.

'Raise the stature' of teaching

Teacher discipline will be handled by a subset of the B.C. Teachers Council called the Disciplinary and Professional Conduct Board made up of nine members and headed by a commissioner, likely a retired judge. This board will consist of five members from the education partner groups and four members from the teachers. 

Individual teachers disciplinary issues will be handled by a smaller sub-panels of three people from the disciplinary board. No more than one of these three will be allowed to be teachers, the idea being that teachers will be the minority when it comes to deciding on discipline for actual teachers.

The Ministry of Education will take over the college's administrative and functions, and the hearings will be open to the public and media and the findings will be published in a registry overseen by the ministry, not the teachers council. 

Education Minister George Abbott says he doesn't expect the BCTF to be fully supportive, but he thinks the new council strikes a balance between including the BCTF and keeping students safe. He also says he hopes this will pave the way for a new constructive relationship with teachers.

"The goal of this legislation is to raise the stature of the teaching profession and increase public confidence in the profession's  disciplinary processes. These changes will strengthen the teaching  profession, as well as increase accountability and transparency," said Abbott in a statement.

'Public shaming'

Meanwhile, B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert lashed out at the province for opening up disciplinary hearings to the public.

Lambert said the move is reminiscent of the public shaming Premier Christy Clark advocates for the Stanley Cup hockey riot trials.

"I want the standards to be upheld but I don't think we need public shaming," she said.

"I think that could ruin the career of an earnest and sincere teacher who finds himself before the college because of an allegation that's unproven."

Lambert said criminal conduct is already subject to public trials.

Conflict of interest plagued college

The new legislation follows a report written last year by lawyer Don Avison, a former senior public servant and university administrator, that raised concerns about the organization's credibility, independence and internal conflicts,

Avison concluded the college needed to be reformed by the government, replaced by a new certification board or folded back into the Education Ministry.

Avison's review was launched in May 2010, after the college chair Richard Walker said internal problems, which had been brewing for months, needed to be addressed.

According to Walker, 270 complaints had been made against B.C. teachers since 2003 and none had resulted in disciplinary action against a teacher.

Avison's report cited three instances where teachers had their credentials restored or upheld after serious wrongdoing. One had been convicted of sexual offences against students, another of drug trafficking and a third of forging court documents.

The B.C. College of Teachers was created by the provincial government in 1987 to set standards and regulate professional conduct, qualifications and education for teachers. Its governing council has 20 members, including 12 elected by teachers.

The college's mandate includes assessing applicants for admission, issuing certificates of qualification, conducting reviews of certificate holders, and suspending or cancelling certificates when necessary.