Legal News

School Act and Teacher College Amendments

Bill 50 – School Amendment Act, 2003

On May 12, 2003 the Government tabled Bill 50, the School Amendment Act, 2003. Bill 50 proposes the following changes to the School Act.

Student Representatives on School Planning Councils
Under Bill 50, Section 8.1 of the School Act would be amended to provide for student representatives on School Planning Councils. Only schools with students in grades 10-12 would be eligible to have a student representative. One student representative would be appointed by the principal from among the students in grades 10-12, after consultation with students in those grades. The process for consultation is not specified.

Seniority for Administrators
Another significant change which is proposed in Bill 50 involves principals, vice-principals and directors of instruction and their rights upon a return to the teacher bargaining unit. Section 21 of the School Act currently provides that in the event school boards terminate or decide not renew their administrative appointment, they would be deemed to have seniority rights for the period they were employed in an administrative capacity as well as the period they were employed as a teacher in the school district – provided they had been previously employed as a teacher in the same school district. Principals, vice-principals and directors who had not previously employed in the school district would not have such seniority protection, making it difficult for them to return to the teaching bargaining unit.

This disparity would be corrected by the proposed amendment to Section 21(2). Principals, vice-principals and directors who, for example, lose their administrative appointment due to financial cutbacks would be deemed to have seniority for the period of their administrative appointment. This would assist them in obtaining a teaching position in the bargaining unit. Under the proposed transitional provisions of Bill 50 the amendment to Section 21(2) would apply to individuals who are currently employed as principals, vice-principals and directors.

Greater Discretion in Student Placement
The proposed amendments to Section 74.1 of the School Act allow school boards greater discretion in the placement of students to schools in the school district. Under Bill 50 school boards would have the discretion to give priority placement to catchment area students if they change schools in order to continue with their educational program and to non-catchment and non-district students who attended schools in a particular catchment area in the previous school year. Additionally, siblings of these students may be given priority placement.
Should school boards give priority placement to these students they are required to establish rules governing the exercise of their discretion and make the rules publicly available. The proposed amendments would also apply to a francophone education authority.

Allocation of Monies from Short Term Leases
Bill 50 also provides school boards with greater discretion in the allocation of monies received from a lease, which is less than five years and does not provide for an option or right to purchase. Currently Section 100 of the School Act stipulates that these monies must be allocated according to the board’s contribution to the asset. Under the proposed amendment, a school board may allocate the monies received to a capital reserve or for operating expenses.

Bill 51 – Teaching Profession Amendment Act, 2003

Bill 51, the Teaching Profession Amendment Act, 2003, will significantly change the regulation of the teaching profession. In part, it constitutes a legislative response to the judicial outcome of a dispute between BC universities and the BC College of Teachers.

Increased Ministerial Control
The proposed amendments will change the composition of the Governing Council of the College of Teachers. Currently, it is composed of twenty persons, of which fifteen are elected by members of the College, two are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to hold office during pleasure, two are appointed by the Minister of Education to hold office during pleasure, and one is nominated jointly by the Deans of the Faculties of Education in British Columbia and appointed by the minister to hold office during pleasure.
Under the amended Act, the members of the College will no longer elect a majority of the Governing Council members. Only eight of the twenty members of the Council will be elected by members of the College. A majority of eleven will be appointed by cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Education. The appointment of a nominee of the universities will continue unchanged.

In making recommendations for appointment, the minister will be required to consult with representatives of independent school operators, public school principals and vice principals, school superintendents and parents. Superintendents, principals and vice principals are required to hold valid teaching certificates and therefore are members of the College of Teachers.

Limits on Role in Teacher Education
The College’s role in regulating teacher education programs will be virtually eliminated. This follows two prominent court decisions. In Trinity Western University v. BC College of Teachers, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal of lower court decisions requiring the College to issue approval of the university’s teacher education program. The College had withheld approval on the grounds that some of the religious principles promoted by the university were inconsistent with human rights.

This case was followed by UBC v. BC College of Teachers, in which the BC Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision and upheld the right of the College to place controversial conditions on approval of a change in the teacher education program. The university was unwilling to accept the conditions and considered them beyond the legitimate interests of the College.

The surviving role of the College in teacher education will be to cooperate with teacher education institutions in the design (but no longer the evaluation) of teacher education programs leading to certification by the College. The College will continue to determine whether graduates of such programs meet its standards for issuing a teaching certificate.

Complaints by Public of Professional Misconduct
Any individual, including members of the public, will be permitted to make written complaints about the conduct of a member of the College. Currently, only the Registrar of the College, public school boards, independent schools, and groups of at least five members of the College can initiate disciplinary investigations.

The amendments will create a statutory duty and requirement to report “professional misconduct” to the College, regardless of whether the information on which the belief that such conduct has occurred is confidential. This requirement supersedes privacy and other statutory prohibitions against disclosure. It also may limit the ability of the BC Teachers’ Federation to enforce paragraph 5 of its “Code of Ethics.” It provides that “The teacher directs any criticism of the teaching performance and related work of a colleague to that colleague in private, and only then, after informing the colleague in writing of the intent to do so, may direct in confidence the criticism to appropriate individuals who are able to offer advice and assistance.”

The term “professional misconduct” is not defined in the Act and it is uncertain how it will be interpreted. These amendments combined may allow parents to take concerns about teachers directly to the College rather than the school board concerned.

Public Accountability of College
The amendments will require the Governing Council to make an annual report to the Minister of Education on the financial affairs and administratio
n of the College, the performance and competence of its members, educational matters generally and other matters that the College considers appropriate or on which is directed by the Minister to report.
Replacement of Current Council
When the amendments come into force, the current Governing Council will be dissolved and replaced by twenty government appointees pending the election and appointment of a new council under the amendments.