Volume 94, Issue 93

Friday, March 16, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Skeletons in the closet?

Editorial Cartoon

Skeletons in the closet?

The already tenuous relationship between teachers and the Ontario provincial government is about to get even more aggravated.

The Tories have decided to introduce a new initiative which will require all teachers and school staff to undergo a criminal background check.

Starting in September 2001, the background checks are designed to provide school boards with additional information regarding their current and prospective employees. This new initiative fits in well with the Tory government's expansive Code of Conduct policies, intended to improve the safety of schools.

Despite the good intentions of this new initiative, it couldn't possibly come at a worse time. Teacher-government relations in Ontario have hit an all-time low. One needs only to think of the secondary school teacher strike or mandatory extra-curricular activities or the loss of preparatory periods or teacher testing to understand the full banquet of battles fought between these two sides.

Furthermore, mandatory background checks create a environment of suspicion and teachers become the ones under the microscope.

It's also important to consider which crimes will show up on one's record. The fact that someone was caught speeding when they were 18 or busted for possession of marijuana while in university, should not hamper their chances at a teaching job.

However, if they have been convicted of a crime involving children or one deemed inappropriate for someone in a leadership role within the classroom, this policy has potential. But who decides which criminal convictions are harmful to children and which ones are not? This is something Harris and his cronies definitely need to be forthcoming about.

And who pays for these background checks anyway? According to the government, the teachers themselves will shell out the cash, targeted at between $25 and $45. Granted this isn't a major financial hardship, the government should extend a courtesy to already employed teachers and cover their costs.

For incoming teachers, this initiative makes sense as it would be beneficial to know who has a criminal record and who does not, especially in this case, when the person in question could potentially teach your child to read or spell or count.

Yet if the government is going to force teachers to have these background checks, why not force all public employees to undergo such a check? Not only does that take some of the pressure off of the troubled relationship, it also sends a clear message to public employees province-wide that certain criminal activities are unacceptable in the eyes of their employers.

Social service workers and early childhood educators already provide their employers with background reference checks.

Maybe it won't hurt teachers to do the same.

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