WATCH ABOVE: Teachers are on the job 24/7 according to the provincial regulator. Sean O’Shea reports.
TORONTO – The body that regulates Ontario’s 250,000 teachers says members of the profession are on duty “24/7, 365” and are expected to behave well at all times.
“We’re never off duty and the question would be: do these activities promote public confidence in the education system and the teacher himself or not? And illegal activity would not meet the test of public confidence,” said Joe Jamieson, deputy registrar of the Ontario College of Teachers.
Jamieson was speaking about expected conduct of teachers following a Global News report Thursday on a Toronto teacher shown on video apparently smoking marijuana and facing the camera saying, “I’m high…really high.”
Joseph Smith, 26, is a teacher at Stilecroft Public School in North York where he teaches a class of Grade One and Two students. A former girlfriend gave Global News videos of Smith, recorded with his knowledge, that she says show Smith smoking marijuana. Other videos, she says, were recorded by Smith in his classroom. She says some of those videos were distributed to friends via the WhatsApp social network app.
“If you’re a teacher, you will not allow yourself to be videotaped doing something you’re not supposed to be doing,” said the former girfriend we’ll call Maureen. Global News agreed not to reveal her identity because she says she fears retribution within her community for coming forward.
Maureen says Smith should not be teaching.
“If you’re irresponsible with yourself, how are we supposed to trust you with the responsibility of our children?” she said.
The union representing elementary public school teachers in Toronto would not comment about this case specifically. But John Smith, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, said teachers are explicitly told about what is acceptable conduct inside and outside the classroom.
“We have a public position and a position of responsibility that’s held up there for scrutiny, very close scrutiny, so we consequently have to behave accordingly,” Smith said.
The Toronto District School Board did not respond to a request for comment following the original Global News story. The board’s position had been that there there was no evidence Smith did anything wrong. A representative called the issue a “personal matter.”
Howard Kaplan, the trustee in the ward where Stilecroft Public School is located, said:
“Lots of my friends smoke pot, even reporters…I would question the judgment of anyone who did it, but that’s up to them,” Kaplan said.
The TDSB said Smith had been given permission to videotape some of his students for a school video. But it’s unclear whether the shaky cell phone videos allegedly shared on social media were among those.
As for whether teachers should guard against being seen in a negative light, the Ontario Teachers College makes the rules clear.
“We’re never off duty and the question would be: do these activities promote public confidence in the education system,” Jamieson said. “And illegal activity would not meet the test of public confidence.”
Smith has no criminal record. He is on a one-year teaching contract.