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Teachers' union has mixed feelings on new legislation

Empty classroom with no students

The provincial government has proposed new legislation that can make disciplinary actions taken against teachers public knowledge, in a bid to improve oversight and accountability.

The Students First Act would allow the province to share the history of any professional or criminal misconduct from a teacher during their careers, and if their teaching certificates have ever been suspended.

It would also lay out regulations for regular background checks and update the makeup of disciplinary bodies.

RELATED: Alberta proposes bill to overhaul, publicize teacher discipline and decisions

Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling says some of these proposals can help improve accountability, but they still want to be sure the legislation doesn’t go too far.

“We need to make sure that it is not encroaching into teachers’ privacy, personal information and that,” he said. “We have to see just exactly what will be put on this registry in terms of information.”

Another piece, like background checks, does seem redundant though.

“This is something that has always been done. If you want to work in a school, if you want to volunteer within a school, you need to have a police record check and you have to have a vulnerable sector check done. It’s something that’s been done for years. Student teachers have to do it when they are working with universities.”

Schilling said the ATA already does a lot to ensure there are no problematic teachers going into classrooms, but he does agree that some updated standards from the province can bring teachers who are not part of the union in line with their standards as well.


But he added there are probably some other topics the province should focus on at this time, in particular addressing concerns surrounding the draft K-6 curriculum and keeping everyone safe from COVID-19.

Similar concerns were also raised by the NDP.

“It’s disappointing that Minister LaGrange is using her time in the legislature to duplicate existing measures when she should be working to fix the problems she has created in our schools. Alberta students will be struggling to catch up on years of learning loss due to her failure to keep students safe through the pandemic,” said Education Critic Sarah Hoffman. “This bill is a cynical attempt to distract from the catalogue of harm Adriana LaGrange has caused to Alberta’s education system.”