Volume 94, Issue 93

Friday, March 16, 2001


Atrium protest disrupts Israel Day

FTAA protesters get ready for summit

Homeless get funding

Teachers oppose criminal checks

Third meningitis scare lands boy in hospital

Crush the octogenarian uprising!


Corroded Disorder

Teachers oppose criminal checks

By Giovanni Paola
Gazette Staff

A new provincial government program requiring criminal background checks for teachers and other school employees has attracted strong criticism from the teaching community.

"This is just another effort by the government to deflect the real issues that concern people," said Dave Moss, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher's Federation.

"In Canada, we are innocent until proven guilty, but now we are guilty until we prove ourselves innocent."

But at the provincial Ministry of Education, media advisor Tanya Cholakov, said the new program is about keeping kids safe, not putting teachers under suspicion.

"This is not an attack on teachers by any stretch. It's just a tool to make sure kids are protected," Cholakov said. The program is also not something unexpected, but rather the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the Progressive Conservatives in the 1999 election, she said.

According to Moss, teachers are not only insulted by the idea of mandatory checks, but also think it is unfair they will have to pay for the checks themselves.

"The real argument is not the screening itself, but the cost of it," Moss said. "In other provinces teachers are screened, but it is paid for. If the government really cares about the safety of students, they would pay."

Moss also said criminal background checks for education workers are a waste of police time and energy.

"The police should be looking at the real issues that concern people, like crime in schools," he said. "It isn't the teachers' actions that cause tragedies like Columbine."

Const. Ryan Holland, media relations officer for London Police, said it would not be police officers doing the actual screening.

"This issue has no bearing on us," Holland said. "We are not using front line police officers to do the screenings, and therefore people should not worry about a decrease in the protection of the city. We are here as an information source."

Holland said local schools are generally safe already, but that does not mean police will be unwilling to conduct background checks.

"We are here to enforce the law and protect the public and if a background check is the law, then we will obey it and so will everyone else."

Cholakov confirmed the program will be put in place this September 2001 and phased in over the next two years. There are currently about 200,000 employees working in schools across in Ontario who will be affected by the program, he added.

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