TORONTO - Traditionally, the "in loco parentis" doctrine clothed teachers with the same responsibility as a parent and exposed them to the same liability for a child’s wellbeing. By extension, local boards of education, are required to act in the same manner a reasonable and prudent parent would. No parent gives up their responsibilities to their children when they are sent to school.
The doctrine has been much debated, and contested, in the Courts, primarily on issues of financial sustenance, corporal punishment, and teachers’, professional duties. The outcome has always been that the responsibilities toward the child actually increase when parents temporarily confer custody of their children, as they do during a school day, to a third party – teachers and the School Boards that hire them. Parents “pay for a service”, and, as any client, choose the quality of the product they buy. They never relinquish their rights to determine what is best for their child. Should anyone accept or expect less?
TCDSB Trustees have left their electors wondering whether, collectively, or individually they deserve the confidence of the parents they are supposed to represent. The issue of soliciting an expert opinion from outside counsel on their “duties and obligations” on Code of Conduct issues speaks volumes about their level of preparedness for, and commitment to, their “job”.
In the opinion of many, becoming a trustee in a “Catholic” Board of Education carries an additional burden of responsibility to the purely instruction obligations of any Board: the upholding of a constitutional right to deliver a sound educational system in the context of a value system that is Catholic. Usually, the final arbiter of that Catholic ethic would be the local Bishop.
It would not be some advocate for the latest “flavour of the month” crusade. No parent would tolerate that. Yet, TCDSB trustees meet, in private session – behind closed doors - to determine whether one of their own is in contravention of the Board’s own Code of Conduct, Workplace Safety and Harassment guidelines.
We should be shocked if their colleagues would decide against one of their own. In fact, the Chairman, Mr. Joe Martino, was compelled to respond to one such complainant that the Board found no basis to allegations. That case, in part, is why the Board needed the legal opinion on “duties” and “procedural fairness”. Apparently, it is di cult for Trustees to provide the same level access to remedies, in the event of non-compliance, for the public they serve as they give themselves.
The case surfaced as a result of an e-mail exchange between elector and Trustee, wherein the elector referred to upholding “Catholic values”. The Trustee responded: “Yeah those ‘Catholic values’ of hate and bigotry… Don’t contact me again or you will be issued a cease and desist letter from our legal department”.
Perhaps the Minister of Education might wish to substitute such trusteeship with the government’s own overseer or amalgamate all school boards into one so that the Minister alone can determine which values will form a Board’s mission statement.