Legal News

Provincial Government Introduces Amendments to School Act and Teaching Profession Act

The Provincial Government has introduced Bill 20, the School (Student Achievement Enabling) Amendment Act, which amends the School Act, and Bill 21, the Teaching Profession (Teacher Registration) Amendment Act, which amends both the Teaching Profession Act and the School Act. Both Bills enact significant changes to the regulatory regime governing School Districts and their employees.

Bill 20, if enacted, will rename Boards of School Trustees as Boards of Education and make their responsibility the improvement of student achievement in the School District. Each Board of Education will be required to prepare “achievement contracts” (replacing accountability contracts) respecting, among other things, plans for student achievement, literacy and early learning programs.

The legislation also creates the position of “Superintendent of Achievement”. These Superintendents will be assigned to particular school districts and will be responsible for reviewing student achievement and early literacy programs and making recommendations for improvement. As well, these Superintendents will also now provide an avenue of appeal of decisions of Boards of Education under section 11 of the School Act.

The proposed amendments also address the issue of charging school fees by allowing Boards of Education to charge fees for specialty academies, such as sport or fine arts programs, trades programs and musical instruments, provided that the Board also establishes a financial hardship policy to permit students who would otherwise be excluded to participate. Bill 21 establishes an online registry of the College of Teachers, setting out the name of any person disciplined by the College, a record of any suspensions or cancellation of their certificate, and a record of the disciplinary action taken by the College and the reasons for it if the discipline related to conduct or competence in breach of College standards, or the physical, sexual or emotional harm to a student. The proposed legislation requires the College to create an employment registry which will be available to any school board, authority or band that is considering employing a College member.

Finally, Bill 21 also amends section 16 of the School Act, which is the provision requiring a Board of Education to report discipline to the College of Teachers. The proposed legislation imposes the obligation to report specifically upon the Superintendent of Schools, and makes the failure to report any suspension or dismissal, or any discipline that involves physical harm, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or significant emotional harm to a student, a criminal offence. Similar reporting requirements are imposed upon independent school authorities and their administration.