Newly introduced legislation that would create a public online searchable database of Alberta teacher information, including disciplinary and criminal history, will help ensure student safety and professional accountability, says Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
The Students First Act will give parents an updated avenue to check on the history of educators in contact with their children, she said.
Whether the new database will lead to safer schools and safer students going forward remains to be seen.
What is known is that this new legislation should not in any way be taken as an indication that Alberta’s fine teachers are anything but law-abiding and dedicated individuals with the best interest of students at heart.
For her part, Minister LaGrange says the new legislation strikes a balance between teacher rights to privacy and procedural fairness with the public’s right to know.
“By making disciplinary matters more transparent, we will ensure safety for students, confidence for parents and accountability for teachers,” said LaGrange.
The Students First Act will require school authorities to conduct criminal record and vulnerable sector checks when hiring a teacher and every five years throughout the educator’s employment.
As well, the Alberta Teachers' Association will be required to inform Alberta Education about all complaints made against its members.
The legislation will also create an expedited certificate cancellation process for teachers convicted of a serious indictable offence under the Criminal Code.
The new searchable registry for teachers is similar to registries already in place for Alberta doctors, lawyers, nurses and engineers.
Official Opposition Education critic Sarah Hoffman says the new legislation “duplicates existing measures” and is a “cynical attempt to distract from the catalog of harm Adriana LaGrange has caused to Alberta’s educational system.”
With its heavy majority in the legislature, the UCP should not have any difficulty passing this new legislation, despite NDP concerns over Minister LaGrange’s motives.
The protection of students from mistreatment by persons in positions of authority is in everyone’s best interest. As such this new legislation is a good step and something that will hopefully pass into law without undue delay.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.