ATA calls education minister’s request ‘intrusive’, contacts privacy commissioner
EDMONTON – The Alberta Teachers’ Association asked the privacy commissioner to intervene after the education minister asked all school boards for teacher conduct documents from the last decade.
The ATA wants the privacy commissioner to determine if school boards can legally provide the education ministry with 10 years of “sensitive personal information.”
At the end of June, Minister Jeff Johnson asked all Alberta school boards to provide records of any complaints about teacher misconduct or incompetence over the past 10 years.
Johnson said he is using his authority under the School Act to request the records be shared with the province by July 11.
“The minister has claimed that there are teachers who are not being held responsible for egregious acts, and we have challenged him to substantiate his anecdotal reports,” said ATA President Mark Ramsankar.
“This in no way justifies the minister’s intrusive demand for employment information that, frankly, is none of his business.
“School boards, not Jeff Johnson, employ teachers, and school boards, not Jeff Johnson, are responsible for hiring and firing teachers,” said Ramsankar.
He believes that – unless the privacy commissioner intervenes – the tight July 11 deadline will put school board offices under a lot of pressure and could result in “sensitive personal information, including medical reports and legal documents, being handled inappropriately.”
The ATA is asking the privacy commissioner to determine whether school boards can legally comply with the June 26 request from Johnson. A letter sent to school boards asks them to submit all complaints lodged against teachers and all information relating to teachers who resigned, retired, were suspended or were terminated in response to allegations of unprofessional conduct or professional incompetence, whether or not the complaints or underlying allegations were proven, by July 11.
“It’s actually the minister that regulates the teaching profession, it’s not the ATA,” said Johnson on June 30. “But the ATA has been given all the powers to investigate complaints and to hold the disciplinary hearings. And a lot of the records of all the HR issues that come forward sit with the school boards, so I actually don’t have the information that I need to give myself good data to make decisions on.”
“We’ve realized that we don’t have enough good data on what’s actually happening on the ground to validate some of the things we’re hearing or to dismiss them,” he added.
Ramsankar stresses the request came as a complete surprise to the ATA.
“As has been his practice, the minister did not consult or advise the Association before issuing his disclosure demand to school boards – so I really have no idea of how the information he is requesting would be analyzed or for what purpose it would be used,” said Ramsankar.
“It looks to me like Johnson is on a fishing trip and he’s fishing with dynamite.”
He added that – as the representative of Alberta teachers – the ATA must ensure their rights and personal information are protected.
“I am hoping that Alberta’s privacy commissioner will step in and provide guidance.”
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